Each new beginning is also an ending. In some way, something has to die in order to bring new life into being. New beginnings can often arise out of troubled or sad endings. A new house rises out of the ashes of the house consumed by a bushfire. A new career emerges out of being fired from the previous job.
The Bible gives us some examples too. Peter, who misunderstood Jesus and later betrayed him, gets a new start. Out of his failures came leadership responsibility which in turn arose from his merciful acceptance by Jesus. Zacchaeus turned from his marginalised, greed ridden life to a new life following Jesus. John Mark, once regarded with misgivings by Paul, turned out to be one of his valued confidantes in Paul’s last days on earth.
For some of us, 2015 may have been littered with some significant failures or painful disappointments. And it is not as if the turning of a calendar page will somehow erase all that. It is not as if making a few New Year’s resolutions will make 2016 one long procession of success and victory.
Followers of Jesus don’t turn over a new leaf: they instead turn helplessly and repeatedly to the God who promises them a new heart. We dare not make outrageous promises we cannot keep. We dare not demand perfection of ourselves or others. We rather recommit ourselves to our imperfect devotion to our perfect Saviour.
We resolve not to be crippled or haunted by our past failures, but rather learn from them and gratefully accept the grace of Jesus who foresaw them all but goes on loving us anyway. We thankfully remember that to fail is not to bring an end to our journey, but to make a new beginning within it.
We dare not delude ourselves by making brash and bold promises that the coming year will see us free of those things which afflicted us this recent year. Life is not as neat as that. However, we can make some more realistic resolutions.
Can we resolve not to chew the cud of our hurt and play with the memory of a falling out in relationship? Can we take one small step into healing another fractured relationship? Can we not resolve to make that one phone call, send that one message, explore that one new activity?
We cannot possibly have any idea what lies ahead of us in the coming year. We cannot presume to seek to control it: we have no power to do so. All we can do is to claim the bottom line promise of Jesus that he will be with us always. He is the one who makes all things new, and who brings new beginnings out of our endings.