“We stand in life at midnight, we are always on the threshold of a new dawn”
– Martin Luther King Jr.
We embrace New Years as a state of mind in which we attempt to fold up the past and define a new future. I like that idea. I like the idealistic notion of a well closed ending, a giant count-down and a ceremonious beginning after which everything is a new story. However, I’m always a little bit disappointed by the stray ends of December that don’t disappear on a January morning. States of the soul are no more likely to transform on that shiny 1st than the state of my room or kitchen sink. I “humph” at the things still there, things reappearing. “How did you drag yourself into my fresh, new, shiny year?”
New Years is the ultimate opportunity for escapism. New Years is our chance for something new, and sometimes our hope for shedding the skin of something old. But the past doesn’t fold up so neatly. The nature of endings and beginnings is not as clear cut as dates and calendars. Things don’t change because the dates clock over. They don’t change because I got out of something or into something, or moved away or wrote a list or raised a glass. Things change because I have changed. And that change is a process that is continuously ending and starting.
Life is more integrated than we attempt to understand it as. It wraps in and out of itself. My future cannot be fully understood or experienced in isolation from yesterday. I bring parts of it with me–parts of the lessons I have learned, the strength I have gained, and yes, even the woundedness that needs healing. These things move forwards with me because He doesn’t throw away the former years–He redeems them. If I try to run away from the days behind, I can cut them off in a place of pain instead of allowing Him to continue working in them. I can hurt my ability to change. There is something in the search for newness that continues to make sense of the old when we understand them to work together.
Sometimes all I want when a year changes is for everything to be new again. But new stories fold back into old ones. Those stories get retold to us in ways we haven’t seen them before. They get rewritten. If I don’t understand this, it can rob me from my sense of progress. Because I keep finding those pieces of December inside my Januarys, I have attempted to cultivate a different understanding for the nature of change. I no longer believe that the only way to step into new is to stash the old. I have exchanged those beautiful but impractical boxes for the fluidity of growth. I believe in all things new, and I believe that my whole life can be a part of that story.
Photo Credit: The Puppeteer