It's coming. Can you feel it?
It's creeping up on us like a quiet predator. It's hiding behind the Christmas trees and stockings hung with care. It's getting ready to strike.
It's ….the new year.
2017 will be here shortly, and some of us know exactly what that means. Whether we admit or not, that first day is like an idol we bend a knee to. It doesn't matter if we're Christians or not. That first day has a power over some of us, that compels us to make any number of proclamations and guarantees that this will be "our year!" It's our year to lose weight, get in shape, start a class, be a better everything, from parent or child, to worker or boss. I've already formulated my own lists in regards to things I'm going to be better at, including, my Bible reading, praying, and being a more dutiful everything to everybody.
Man, this new year thing is like the mega-apocalypse of self-salvation projects. We want so badly to pat ourselves on the back. It's like work on steroids. All you need to do is peek at a gym on January 2nd. People are raring to go, ready to slay the giants, and take the castle. That's me too. I'm planning my own "attack" for the new year. I want to move from running to weight training, and January 1st is like a magic pill you take to get to the "next level." It fills you with optimism, hope, a "can-do" spirit that can't quenched. Man, I'm getting more pumped even as I type this! I think I just broke my "!" key. There is just something about that day!
But, if you've read any of my writing before, then you know, random, high-voltage optimism, is NOT my "love language." It's incredibly hard for me to write without balance. Maybe it's the law/Gospel dynamic now ingrained in me. But I can't write looking forward without also glancing backwards. That means that as much as I'm like everyone else, and tend to get pulled into the optimism of the yearly reset, I'm already preparing a counter-stroke to my high-expectations. It's not that I'm a defeatist, or expect failure at every corner, I just know putting that much pressure on myself just because a clock strikes 12 midnight is a recipe for disaster, and I'm a little tired of eating from that cook book.
Part of it for me, and maybe you too, is that we get so caught up in the high of expectations and possible accomplishments, that it takes no more than one failure to bring it all crashing down! For whatever reason, we manage this roller coaster much better over the course of a year. We know all the ups and down and loop de loops are coming, but we find ways to manage it and navigate through it until we get back on level ground. But that new year comes, and I tend to take all my normal expectations and toss them over the side of the coaster. I rip off my seat belt, and ride "wild style." THIS IS MY YEAR WORLD! DO YOU HEAR ME?! WOO HOO!
Maybe a day goes by. Maybe a month. Next thing you know, I'm standing still in some kind of disappointment "traction" from crashing and burning over all my over-the-top expectations. It's all quite manic. Even as I write this, I don't know if I'll avoid the highest highs, or the crashing downs, even if I want to. I think it's built into this culture of ours, that the new year means, "fresh start." The past year, and all its crap are now gone. You're not bound by any of it, even if it was just yesterday. Me? I have to be honest, I need much more that a yearly fresh start. I know it won't take me long to crash and burn, and then just like that, 2018 will still be a far 11 months off.
As a guy that tries to read his Bible, and follow Jesus, I do have a daily restart. I wake up knowing I need, as a friend often says on twitter, a "new day, new blessings, new grace", and I have it. I have it not because I met all my accomplishments and goals, and now God is pleased with me, but despite it. I have it, because my worst sins, even my most treacherous moral failings, are covered by grace. In Christ, I have that same extreme start that most people feel excited for when ringing in the new year. But, we don't just have it in the dawn of each new day. it's there even in the eye-blink past our worst moments. That's why I have to try to reign myself in when it comes to setting ridiculous and numerous goals in the new year. Because of the new life that I have that provides me forgiveness quicker than I can repent.
That's my hope for the new year, for each day, and every minute in-between. Will I set goals and make some resolutions? Of course. But I want to remember that my hope is not in hitting every mark, and notching off every accomplishment. My hope is in a Savior, who has covered me with a perfect score, the best run, and the most productive workday. I'm saying that he covers me with his perfect life. Hopefully by remembering that, I won't be caught up in finding my worth in how well I perform, but instead maybe enjoy the coaster for the ride it is, which includes some scares, and some laughs.
When you feel the need to demand your worth be found in how well you start the new year, remember Christ has covered it all, even if you hit the ground a little too hard the next day.
Blessings and Happy New Year!
A theological misfit landing in the area of Lutheranism, Dominick has come to deeply appreciate the truth of scripture as defined by the distinction between Law and Gospel. He has found freedom in knowing that Christ is his substitute on even his worst days. He has been for the course of his church life everything from chair-stacker to men's ministry leader. He is blessed with a wonderful wife and two great young men, which he can say without a doubt, he doesn't deserve. He counts among his favorite things: Star Trek, classic superhero comics, movies, Yankees and yes, he admits to it, the Knicks. He enjoys a good conversation and good food. Finally, he is grateful for the opportunity to share the message of God's Grace among all these great teachers, pastors and theologians and hopes he doesn't mess up big time. But then again, that's what grace is for, right?