Updated: Dec 28, 2019
It's that time of year again. The space between the dazzle of Christmas and the beckoning of a new year. The time where we reflect on the year past and then make promises to ourselves for the coming year. There are a lot of messages floating around right now. Messages wooing us with the promise that a particular item, conference, plan, or motivation is all we need to fix ourselves and the mistakes we made this year. I recently saw an advertisement for a Christian women's conference that promises to give us all the motivation we need to become our best selves in 2020. After all, it's almost a new year, and don't we all hope to find our "best self" next year? Next year we'll lose the weight. Next year we'll stop yelling at our kids. Next year we'll have better marriages, better jobs--and if we're really lucky--better kids. Next year we'll soar to never-before-known limits. Next year we'll find all the peace, joy, happiness, and fulfillment we were jipped in 2019.
That's a lot of pressure, 2020. We're all expecting a lot from you, so we hope you're up to the challenge. Oh, 2020, didn't you get the memo? You're the year all of our dreams come true. You're the year we turn into the people we always hoped we'd be. 2019 didn't quite come through for us, so it's up to you, 2020!
It's the time of year when we're hungry for change--desperate for change. We're all too aware of our shortcomings. The list of things we didn't do. I should have organized the closets and drawers like the lady on Netflix. I should have read more. I should have scrolled less. The moments we lost. I should have stopped cleaning and spent more time playing. The goals we didn't meet. I should have eaten healthier. I should have exercised more. The list of things we did do that we wish we hadn't. I shouldn't have been so selfish, so prideful, so angry, so weak, so stressed out, so afraid, so lazy.
We're all too aware of our desperate need for change.
The reality is we're not who we want to be. And that's a good thing. We're in the process of sanctification, and the more we fix our eyes on Jesus, the more aware we become of our desperate need for change. We live in the already but not yet reality of a broken world waiting for its restoration. Like Paul, we know the good we ought to do and wish we could stop doing the things we shouldn't do. But somehow, despite all our motivational talks and well-meaning intentions, we're staring 2020 in the face hoping that this year we'll get it right. This year we'll have fewer pounds on the scale, fewer inches around our waists, and fewer regrets weighing down our hearts.
But no amount of motivational speeches is going to cut it. A new date on the calendar won't change a heart. A new year has never resulted in a new us.
We don't need motivation. We need transformation.
We don't need motivational talks. We need transformational power.
This is the good news of the gospel. This is the good news of the God who wrapped himself in flesh, walked among us, was murdered for us, and rose again in order to offer new life to us. You and I, we just can't do it. We can't muster up the willpower. We can't motivate ourselves into our best selves.
We need transformation, and there's only one place to find it. No amount of self-shaming, self-loathing, self-empowering, self-esteem, or self-help will deal with a heart that's prone to wander.
While goals and dreams and motivational talks aren't bad, they don't have the power to change us. Only the power of an empty grave can do that. And only a heart that dies to self will find it.
Our best selves aren't found at the end of a list.
Our best selves are found at the foot of a cross.
Our best selves aren't found in a tight-fisted grip on what 2020 owes us.
Our best selves are found in the places where we surrender our hold on life and hold tight to Jesus instead.
Our best selves look a lot less like us and a lot more like Jesus.
Don't get me wrong. I'll be at the gym next week, along with half the population. I'll see you at a birthday party and whine about how I'd much rather be eating a brownie than the carrots I'm allowed on Whole 30. I have dreams and plans and hopes for 2020. Boy, do I hope it's better than 2019.
But more than any of that, I want to be transformed. I want to hold fast to Jesus and look a lot more like him at the end of 2020 than merely a better version of myself. I want 2020 to be a year of obedience more than I want it to be one of success. I want 2020 to be the year where I look back, and yes I'll see a trail of mistakes--more than I can count--but I'll see grace upon grace upon grace. And I'll see heart that has learned to trust. Hands that have learned to give. Lips that speak life to those around me. A mind that is anchored in the truth of God's word.
Jesus offers us this life of transformation. And the best news? We don't have to wait until January 1st. He offers us life to the full (John 10:10) right here on the weary road we're walking. Right here in the midst of broken dreams, unmet expectations, and a year that maybe went terribly wrong. He offers us himself. He's still Emmanuel, God with us. He's not only with us but in us, offering to do what we could never do for ourselves--transform us.
Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).