Have you ever had one of those days when you just wanted to push the reset button? Or have you perhaps had one of those moments where you thought to yourself, oh dear, if I could just rewind a few minutes and take back the words I just said... the face I just made... the bad attitude I just betrayed...?
I know I have.
In fact, sometimes it can seem like my life is made up of an ever flowing cascade of regrettable moments. Times when I should have been quiet rather than opinionated. Days when I should have slowed down and resisted the agitation of rushing. Moments where I should have chosen peace over pride.
My husband and I have often looked at one another, as tempers begin to rise and the agitation begins to fester, and called an audible, "whoa," to our galloping emotions. "Can we just start this over? Forgive each other and start over? Can we give each other that grace?"
And in those blessed moments when we are able to deny our flesh and seek unity above selfishness, we praise God for the gift of forgiveness.
Because forgiveness -true forgiveness - frees you to live joyfully and abundantly without the guilt of the past failures holding you captive.
It gives the paralytic the ability to walk.
I think that's why we relish the idea of a new year. Realistically, nothing changes between the second that splits December 31st and January 1st, but mentally, as a culture, we've signed a communal agreement saying that in the click of a clock's minute hand we are all allowed the grace of beginning a new chapter in our lives.
There is a metaphorical turning of the page.
A new door opened.
A previous year's slate wiped clean.
And it is this idea of a fresh, blank slate that is so appealing to us as we set about making our new year's resolutions - this feeling that we can somehow wipe the sins of last year from our memories. There's a joy found in packing up all those sins and mistakes into a little box labeled "past" and exchanging them for a fresh, empty box that shines with the excitement of "endless possibilities."
Who knows what we can accomplish in the new year - what demons we may slay?
And so, the new year provides a "reset" option for many of us. It gives us the feeling that we can begin again with a blank slate, and that blank slate gives us the motivation necessary to scale the intimidating mountains on the new year's horizon.
In a sense, we are offering ourselves absolution for our past failures and the freedom to live unhindered by them in the future.
The problem is, the absolution we grant has no actual meaning.
It isn't real and it isn't lasting.
Poor creatures that we are, no sooner has January faded into the mist of our memories than we find ourselves reverting back to the overeating, the disorganization, the negative attitude, or whatever other vice has plagued us over the years. We come down from our New Year's high and realize that we are still the same sinners who struggle every day to deny our sinful tendencies.
We find that the guilt from our past continues to cripple us and we're forced to stare again and again into mirrors that betray the broken, messed up people we've always been.
Sadly, after all the hype and optimism of January 1st fades away we are left with little but a renewed sense of our own weakness.
For as long as we seek absolution (and therefore, motivation) from within, we will never find true rest and lasting joy.
Abundant life will continue to allude us.
But this is not to be so for the Christian, because the Christian's absolution is not found within, but rather, it is found in Christ.
It is real; it is concrete; it is eternal.
In Christ, we are not weak and weary sinners who've been overcome by our iniquities, but rather, we are triumphant, risen saints. We are declared righteous and holy. In Christ's strength we are made strong.
What joy is experienced by those who've been saved by the blood of the cross, whether it is 11:59 p.m. on December 31st or 12 a.m. on January 1st! What freedom there is for the sinner whose hope is not in what she can accomplish, but instead in what her Savior has already finished! She is not enslaved by her past because the Lord has wiped all of her sins away. Truly, it doesn't matter to her if it is the the crisp, hopeful morning of a new year or a disillusioned summer afternoon when all of her well-meaning resolutions have gone to pot.
Her hope is not in herself, but in the Lord.
She knows that her Redeemer came so that she might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).
Every. day. of the year.
"Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin." -Romans 4:7&8
Can we say this enough?
Blessed are we, dear sisters!
Our sins are not tallied against us.
Our slates are clean - forever!
All because the Clean One made himself dirty with our sins.
Let us not look inward this year, but instead, let us look upward toward our God in Heaven who loves us, cleanses us, and teaches us to walk in his ways by the power of his Spirit.
"For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified." -Hebrews 10:14
For by a single offering, we were made free.
Let us live in the joy and the hope of that freedom.
Happy New Year... Happy eternity!