It's a new year. We have brand new hopes and dreams. We are looking over our shoulders at all that went down last year and resolving to not make the same mistakes twice. We survey the landscape of our lives and take inventory of all that is missing. We are determined to filled in all those gaps, but deep down we know there's not a snowball's chance we are going to arrive at December 31, 2019, with a perfect life with all the pieces in place either. Not in this life.
Dreaming is a good thing though, right? Planning is even better. If we do not live our lives with intention, our lives will do the living for us.
If we are to plan well though, we must count the cost.
If New Year's Eve is going to find us in a different place in 2019 than it did in 2018, it is going to cost us something, be that our comfort, our fear, or our money. We cannot leave all else in place like we like it and become something we have never been.
As a new believer in high school, I stumbled into a Christian bookstore and tried to find a devotional I could buy with the few dollars in my pocket. (High standards - right?) I found My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. Many days it was too deep for me to comprehend. Mr. Chambers lived at the turn of the 20th century and wrote in such a way to challenge one to give himself fully to God. It's not a light read, to say the least.
As God would have it, the lesson that falls on my birthday in that little book is centered around John 13:17, "Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them." It is fitting because I've heard my mother say many times, "Knowing and doing are two different things." It doesn't matter how much I know - nor how much I write about what I know - if I do not do what I know to do. This is where it gets tricky and this is where a line from that tiny devotional has come back to haunt me for years.
"Beware of harking back to what you once were
when God wants to make you something you have never been."
That's some hard stuff, y'all.
It would be bad enough if it said God wants me to do something I have never done. I don't like that either, but it's bigger than that. God wants to make me something I have never been. He wants to take this old lump of clay, slap it on His wheel, and press, turn, flip, and mold me into a new creation. And then! Then, he's going to turn up the heat and make those changes set in like stone - to where I can never just curl back into the lump I once was.
Sounds fun, doesn't it?
Not so much.
That's why He is the potter and we are the clay.
"O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?" declares the Lord. "Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel."
God alone knows the plans He's had for us since long before we were born. We might know what feels good or what we hoped we'd be by now, but we'll only find our true identity when we turn toward our Father. We can look around and decide for ourselves what is missing or we can look in His Word and ask Him to show us who we really are.
"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like."
There it is again - it's in the doing, not merely knowing. So, we could consider what we know needs to change in this new year, then ask ourselves what we are going to do to change it. I bet we did that last year, too. When we do that, more often than not, we will somehow find a way to "hark back to what we once were." Old patterns feel good and onlookers stop monitoring accountability when the newness of resolutions wears off. We are left alone to our own devices and we grow tired when we are walking in our own strength. We lose our veracious valor to discover the divine and settle for the dull and dim just because it's easy.
What if this year we try something different?
What if, in the looking over our shoulders at what was, we choose to lift our faces from those places to the One who holds what is to come?
What if we resolve to become someone we've never been, go to places we have never seen, lock in on the promise that we can become a new creation altogether? Those thorns in our sides? He's known about them since before we acknowledged them at all. Not only that, He's known what He wanted to accomplish from them, too. We'll never know if we aren't seeking Him. We'll work around them - the disappointments, regrets, aches, and longings - but what if He did a work with them? What if our Potter really is who He says He is and all this pressure and pain has been part of the process all along to form us into beautiful instruments He intends to use for a specific purpose?
What if we were brave enough to believe it's true? What if we were strong enough to admit we are too weak for this job? What if we let Him muscle it out this time? What if we expected God - to show up, to do the thing, to carry out our His plans that will always trump our own - this year?
What if, by doing something we've never done, we became something we've never been?