I’m writing today with my thoughts about the New Year.
Yes. I realize it is February. I’m just behind, not out of touch. Unlike previous annual transitions, I did not get my customary running start into 2017.
If my Mom was still alive and reading this, she would want to know if I had gotten the Christmas lights down—and the answer is, yes. They are down and properly put away. I did think about harvesting them with my hedge trimmer, but I’m too tight with a dollar to do that.
So, even though it is the first week of February, this is the general vicinity on the calendar from which I’m beginning.
You read in my previous blog about my brother dying. Wade had liver cancer and left us on December 27th about 6:15 in the evening. His passing, along with contracting a wicked upper respiratory infection that has lasted for a month, and the regular stuff of life, when I have looked into my heart to write, there have been no words.
I’m not worried about the missing words. They have simply gone into hiding while my soul manages its storm. In time, once my soul is replenished, the words will resurface. This probably will not occur tomorrow, or the next day, or by Friday. But with soul care, I will begin again.
And that’s the subject on my mind this morning: beginning again.
When I think of January, or in this case, February, I think of starting over, resolutions, and new beginnings. But as I consider this, I realize I begin again frequently, sometimes multiple times each day, and not just in January. So, while the first month has a reputation of being a good time to start over, the fact is, anytime is a good time to grasp a fresh approach.
In and of itself, beginning again is positive. However, for me and my self-condemning flesh patterns, realizing the need to begin again often has shame associated with it. If only I had…. I should have…. Why didn’t I…? How could I…?
Vulnerability is Risky
I believe our heavenly Father realizes our vulnerability to the temptations of shame, guilt, condemnation, and regret when we confess the need to start over. Otherwise, why would He note that His loving-kindness, compassion, and faithfulness is new every morning (Lam. 3:22-23)? He knows our struggle, and He goes a step further by making provision for us. But the real question is: Do we know that His mercy is fresh every moment? More pointedly, do we embrace His constant mercy?
I tend to wallow… much like a pig in a mud hole. In my past life, I used to work on a pig farm, and on occasion I have waded into a muddy manure pit to drag a stuck pig out of his wallow. In those instances, my mercy was fresh that moment! Not that the pig noticed and acknowledged my assistance as merciful, but my mercy toward the stuck porker left me open for Father God to point an opportunistic finger at my actions and impress upon me, Just as you mercifully assisted your hog, I assist you… even when you wallow. Pres, my mercies are new every day.
It is an interesting thing to read about Father’s mercies, i.e. His loving-kindness, compassion, faithfulness. Have you noticed that there are no asterisks, no addendums, no footnotes, no exclusions, no provisions, no caveats, and no parentheses? Straight up, His Book states, “His mercies are new every morning.”
Failure is Not Fatal
Some years ago I wrote about an icy day in Fort Worth, which is synonymous with a disaster of major proportions since Cowtown is not equipped to cope with anything frozen, unless it is a Margarita. Ordinarily I would have stayed home. But for whatever reasons, I determined I had to get out.
It was a hard day that reached its apex of frustration with a slip on the ice while carrying a load of laundry back to my ill-functioning car. What followed was not pretty. When I wrote of this earlier, I moderated my actual response, and it will be another cold day before I provide you the gory details.
Later that night, after regaining some semblance of composure, I sat down to hear what God had to say about the events of the day, especially my grievous failure. The verse that came to mind—mercifully—was Mark 16:7, “Go tell His disciples and Peter….”
Those last two words were the mercy I needed to start fresh: “and Peter.” This quote is from the angel at Jesus’ empty tomb. If you recall, Peter had denied his friend, Jesus, three times with loud cursing and oaths before a lowly servant girl. Peter was crestfallen and fled into the darkness a broken, embarrassed man.
But the Lord’s mercies are new every morning: “Go tell Peter.” He did not mention by name any of the others who had abandoned Him. Only Peter. But that was precisely what Peter needed to start over.
I would like to think my reaction to Peter would have been the same as Jesus’ was. But if I’m honest, I would most likely have nurtured the betrayal and wallowed in pity.
It’s a Pity!
Just this morning I attended a fancy, business breakfast. No sooner had I entered the posh hall than I accidentally bumped the elbow of a man sipping a cup of coffee. Turns out, he was the distinguished, guest speaker. I apologized several times, but in front of all present he remained bent over, as though scalded, with coffee on his chin for full effect. Then he left the room, still bent over, although he had dabbed the drip from his lip.
His act worked: I felt terribly embarrassed and humiliated. I must admit, he was quite pitiful.
Jesus could have played the same game with Peter. But He did not, and more importantly, He does not. His mercy is new with every dawn.
Starting fresh is not momentary except for the instant when you decide to begin again. After that initial determination, your new resolve becomes progressive, and the nature of your progression is important. Moving from your point of shame toward the light of your Father’s mercy begins where you are.
Starting over is not like Monopoly where you draw the wrong “Chance” card and have to “Go directly to jail. Do not pass ‘Go.’ Do not collect $200.” His mercy is a journey that is new at each marker on life’s road. Father is full of mercy, not retribution.
Have you noticed that your heavenly Father is big on promises? He is a true visionary, but He is also gifted at managing each day’s problems. He says, “Behold, I will do something new / Now it will spring forth; / Will you not be aware of it? / I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, / Rivers in the desert” (Is. 43:19).
How bleak does it appear from where you stand? How hopeless do you feel? Just how low are you on options? The fog is how thick? And how badly do you need a fresh start?
“Make a point to tell Peter—especially Peter (and Pres)—I want to meet with him and go fishing. He must understand: My mercy is new every morning—not just in January or February—and he needs to be reminded of this right now. It won’t wait. Hurry!”
Happy New Year! Never mind that 2017 only has eleven months left.