2020 is now well under way. Whether you made resolutions or not, the language of starting over and afresh surrounds us immediately following Christmas and well into the first months of the new year. Come January 1, we are bombarded with messages about becoming new versions of ourselves, taking control of our lives, reinventing ourselves, breaking free of old patterns. The phrase “New Year, New You” is ubiquitous, spoken over airwaves and seen in print over and over. We are encouraged to ride the wave of a new calendar year into the best versions of ourselves, with a little help from our friends: diets, nicotine patches, clothing curation services, online dating apps, job search engines, gym memberships, fitness equipment and wellness programs, to name a few.
It’s not to say that the start of a new calendar year isn’t a great time to make changes. It is. But so is any time, so is all the time. What lives in us that needs to be changed now is no different than what was there yesterday and what will be there tomorrow until those changes are actually made. What I find difficult about betting heavily on the New Year being “right” the starting point to change is that if (when?) we slip up, or break a resolution, it can feel like you have lost the opportunity to make actual, lasting change. The window is gone, so… oh well, better luck next year. We won’t be subtly encouraged again to join gyms and diet until beach season rolls back around. But the need for us to adjust, change course, rethink, and repent is constant. And we aren’t ever cut off from it. We are always, always within reach of the grace of God to welcome us back into his arms when we’ve gone off course. He’ll even show us the way.
Scripture says that God is love (1 John 4:7), that we were loved before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4-5), and that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:35). That is true! But we can still feel a separation from his love, and sometimes that separation can feel like an uncrossable chasm. It has been my experience that the messaging we get around the start of the year muddles our connection to the love of God in subtle ways. In the worst cases, it widens the chasm. We are never actually separated from the love of God – he remains present, loving us the whole time – it just feels like that because we start to doubt our own worth and acceptance, first in the sight of the world, and second, but more importantly, in the eyes of God.
Last weekend, Rock Recovery Executive Director Christie Bettwy and I led a retreat entitled “New Year, New View” specifically meant to encourage people who struggle with messaging and issues related to food and body image, and to help combat some of these subconscious attacks we undergo on a fairly regular basis. Many of the things we hear around this time of year make us focus on the flesh, make us feel strangely uncomfortable in our own, perfectly-beloved skin, and beyond the reach of God’s grace in some way.
What is important to remember is: that is never true. If you mess up on your resolutions, or if there is something larger that feels like it is driving a wedge in your relationship to God, there is always a way to remove that wedge. There isn’t a “right” time to start over. It’s every moment. The opportunity, God himself, is the constantly waiting and open door for us. If you’ve already broken a promise to yourself this year, that’s okay. You can start again because you are loved and you are a new creation. Not just on January 1, but each and every day you claim that identity in Christ as your own.