I love a new year. It’s one of the great, divine punctuation marks that we get to enjoy.
There’s something about the fresh, untainted, virginal possibility that a new year brings. Every 365 days (or 366 if you’re Olympic) there’s a January 1.
Another chance to do things the way you meant last time. The optimism, if you choose to seize it, of something without blemish.
If I post this sometime today, I will have posted something every day in 2016. Thus far. If I go for a swim when the pool opens later this morning, I will have done some form of exercise every day this year. Unremarkable for some years, significant right now.
Every year I get this same invitation. It’s usually accepted sometime in late November. I begin dreaming the new year. How it might look, what might change. Which word might fuel the journey as a fresh chapter in this unfolding story is written.
It’s like giving the Etch-a-Sketch a big shake and being presented with a clean slate all over again.
I may have woken with an enthusiasm for starting strong but, the truth is, there was no quantum character transformation while I slept those few hours last night. My level of integrity and discipline, my capacity to love, my ability to write, my level of physical pain, and my willingness to give grace; none of these things changed much. They’re right about where I parked them last night. That’s not defeatist; that’s a right reading of things.
As my first coffee of 2016 joins the party, I get another chance to think about what might be. That’s one of the sweetest things about a new year. And I get the chance to intentionally resign some moments to ‘last year’.
So many plans, resolutions and big dreams fail to burst into life because they come with joyful anticipation and no road map. Great ideas without a deliberate trajectory often ended up stalled in the starting grid of January. It seems way too early to be bursting the bubble of enthusiasm on January 1, so we don’t dwell too much on the tools required to get the job done and we just start building the house all the same. We’re so bummed when January 4 arrives and the Etch-a-Sketch looks a bit messy.
As some great friends sat around last night swapping highlights of 2015 and painting word pictures for the new year, the word for one of our table stood out over the rest. It may have even gleaned gasps when it was spoken for the first time.
It triggered a bunch of thoughts on top of each other (although the conversation that fell out of our gasps had more to do with painful non-surgical medical procedures than things of greater gravity).
Consecration: To set yourself apart for the sacred. To be or represent the body and blood of Christ.
Many, many moons ago, a tribe that had wandered for forty years, gathered at the edge of a river. For much more than a generation, they’d dreamed that one day, perhaps, their promise of a promised land might be fulfilled. If not in their lifetime, surely someone’s lifetime, right? Their leader, Joshua, stood up by the Jordan River and said some words that would sting in the short term, but must have been breathtakingly momentous.
“Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”
God was saying to Joshua and the Israelites, ‘I want you to know that good stuff is going to happen. Great and glorious things. I know the plans I have for you and they’re very, very good. But I want you looking at me. There’s purpose in the good stuff and if you cease to set yourself apart for me, you’re going to miss it. So consecrate yourself. For the great and glorious work I will accomplish through you will be for your joy and my glory.’ Something like that.
A couple of days back, as I reviewed my year once more and contemplated what I might be biting off in 2016, I opened my Bible to Psalm 131. It’s three verses long (and even one of those seem like an afterthought).
O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.
Amid the confident buoyancy of a new year and the invitation to enter that adventure, these verses stood out as loud as Joshua beside the Jordan River.
Consecrate yourself. Commit your ways to the Lord, trust in Him, and He will act. (Psalm 37:5)
World domination is no domination at all. I don’t want to be king of the mountain.
In quietness and trust, God invites us to bring our hopes and failures, perhaps the sadness of an old year, as well as the joy, potential and possibility of a new year and lay it down.
Not because He wants to dance over our dreams and make us feel silly for having them in the first place. Quite the opposite. Committed to Him, he wants to dance with us.
Consecrate yourself to adventure. Consecrate yourself to the story He’s writing. Consecrate yourself to whatever you’re transitioning from or to. Consecrate yourself to freedom. And allow the source of hope and joy, the author and perfecter of faith to be the object of your consecration.
Thanks for listening.