A guest post by Joy LaPrade…
I almost bought into the New Year’s lie this year. After a December that left me feeling worn out and broken, I was ready for a fresh start.
I hadn’t wanted the Christmas season to be that way. In fact, I had tried to plan out my time and our family’s schedule to allow for reflection and celebration rather than busyness. But as the weeks went by, it felt like we rushed from one commitment to the next, and I fought—and failed—to complete my to-do lists.
I became discouraged; I can’t even celebrate Christmas properly? Not only was I falling behind, I couldn’t guard my heart against the stress, frustration and impatience this caused. I listened to sermons that should have encouraged me: God loves broken things. He loves using broken people. I heard those words and mentally assented to them. I definitely felt broken, but I didn’t feel loved. I wanted to get it together so I could.
It was a relief when we were finally done with the holiday season. It won’t be this way next year, I resolved.
But as I started making plans for 2014, some of those Advent sermons began to finally work on my heart. I noticed how, at New Year’s, everyone seems to be trying to fix something. After we stumble and struggle to the end of the year, the promise of a fresh start is so enticing. And false.
Because, of course, the New Year is a lie. Nothing about reality changes with the turn of a number on the calendar. But the New Year is a really good lie—the original lie. You can do it yourself. You can make yourself whole. You can get things right this time, as long as you have the right systems in place and the willpower to stick with them.
The truth is, we can never fix our brokenness on our own, and the more we try, the further we run from God.
I realized I had let my brokenness become an occasion for despair when it should have been an opportunity for comfort.
If the idea of New Year’s resolutions had been around in the first century, I’m guessing Mark, the gospel writer, might have found them appealing too. He was a deserter twice that we know of, abandoning both Jesus and Paul. He must have felt like such a failure. It would probably have been tempting to feel discouraged and determine not to let it happen again—”this time, I’ll be more faithful.”
But at some point, Mark must have come to realize that his brokenness and failure never stopped Jesus from loving him. Maybe he even heard this from the risen Christ.
He probably also heard it from Peter, who knew what it was like to fail. Or perhaps Paul. As a Pharisee Paul had known what it was like to be strong and have it all together, but later said he rejoiced in the weakness he had no power to overcome.
I came to see that feeling broken is a gift, a clear view of reality. If we let it become a reason for despair and try to fix it on our own, we’ll only fail again and fall further into discouragement. Or worse, we’ll actually manage to get it all together.
Until we see ourselves as broken, we will never see Jesus as beautiful, and we will never desire His return as long as we believe we have the strength to achieve a healthy, organized, comfortable life on our own.
So, let’s make plans and keep resolutions, but not because these things have any power to make our lives better. Instead, when we do fail, we can remember that Jesus loved us so much He was broken to make us whole. All that we truly need has already been accomplished. He is the one making all things new, and He’s not waiting until we manage to pull ourselves together.
You can follow Joy on Twitter: @joyklaprade