Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands. [Isaiah 43:18-19 (MSG)]
A few years ago, one of my children asked me if, with the advantage of hindsight, I would still choose to have children and be a stay-at-home mom. “Do you really want my answer?” I responded. Why someone in their right mind would deliberately choose the long hours, challenges and heartbreak of parenthood is a bit of a puzzle to anyone who has ever had children. I freely admitted that I would have enjoyed having had a life of my own, a career, and an opportunity to live without parental responsibility. I then added that I would never want to deprive myself or the world of the beautiful children God gave me so, of course, I would do it all over again. Later, I thanked God for not giving us choices like that. Knowing how difficult life is and all that could possibly go wrong, we’d be terrified to make any decisions.
I thought of that conversation when we attended a stage production of “It’s a Wonderful Life” a few weeks ago. George Bailey (the Jimmy Stewart character) is a man who gave up his dreams to fulfill the dreams of others. When life goes seriously awry and he wishes he’d never been born, an angel shows him what life in his community would be like if his wish came true. Bailey, like Scrooge in the Dicken’s classic “A Christmas Carol,” has a flash of insight and realizes what a wonderful life he has actually had.
Here we are at the end of one year and the beginning of another. Far too often, this is a time of regrets and wishing we could start over again. We’re sure we could do it better, or at least another way, than the first time. Fortunately, we can’t, because, while we might not make the same mistakes again, we’d just make different (and possibly worse) ones. Someone else had that other more glamorous and exciting life about which I once dreamed. I was blessed instead with three wonderful children, a loving husband, great in-laws, five delightful grands, and a life of real purpose. Do I have regrets? Of course! There is heartache I wish I never endured, sorrow I wish I never experienced, and wounds I wish had never been inflicted. Moreover, there is heartache, sorrow and damage I wish I had never caused. There are words I wish had been left unsaid, emotions I wish had been better controlled, and foolish mistakes and errors in judgment I wish had never been made. Yet, our experiences, both good and bad, are what make us who we are today.
While God doesn’t let us hit the rewind button and start the same life over, he does give us a whole new life when we accept Jesus. The old life is over, done and gone, and a new one begins. Each day with the Holy Spirit is a new day and a new opportunity to love better and live wiser. So, instead of regrets on this, the first day of the year, we will have faith—not in the New Year but in the One who makes all things new. It is, indeed, a wonderful life. Thank you, God!
The object of a new year is not that we should have a new year; it is that we should have a new soul. [G.K. Chesterton]
Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! [2 Corinthians 5:17 (MSG)]
I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. [Philippians 3:12-14 (MSG)]