Thursday, January 1, 2015

A new year, a new beginning

Jeremiah's Lamentations say that the mercies of the LORD are new every morning (Lam 3.23). This is one of the wonderful regularities of God's wisely designed universe: we are given new starts, we given a sense of distance from the past (including past mistakes and failures) which empowers us psychologically to begin living in a different and better way. We go to bed at night after a hard day perhaps quite upset by the way it went, but when we wake up in the morning, we find ourselves greeted by light of the sun once more; we feel that the events of yesterday might as well have occurred twenty years ago, because we have a new day at our disposal to use for a better end.

The same is true for the New Year. A year has passed, and it wasn't ideal in every respect. I made many mistakes which I regret, and I have passed through deep valleys as much as, if not more than, I have enjoyed the view from the mountaintops. But now I can distance myself from all that, because the calendar is changing; the number of the year is going up by one; it is a new start, and that means I can work in some measure with a blank slate.

In God's universe, there is a certain fortunate impermanence of evil. Evil has no being of its own; it is not an independently subsisting hypostasis in competition with the Good. Evil can be undone and destroyed, and indeed one day it will be no more. One way in which we destroy evil is with the new start. We can erase the past, so that even God forgets our sins, if we repent and he forgives us. We can erase the vices which have built up over the years if now, with a brand new year in front us, we take ourselves more seriously and begin to live in a more intentionally virtuous way.

It is easy to say all this now, when the celebration of the New Year is just beginning and I feel the zeal and fervor of the new start. A few months from now, when the year will be well under way and its own difficulties will have surfaced, it may be quite difficult to keep up this same enthusiasm. But what else is there to do? We must try and do our best, and never be satisfied with the way things are.

I'm a Seahawks fan. If you listen to the better players on the team, such as Earl Thomas or Russell Wilson, you hear them talk like this all the time: constantly working, constantly perfecting, never satisfied, never content with the way things are. These are professional athletes who understand that this mentality yields results. There is no reason why we should not take our lives lived before God and before other men any less seriously.

These players are confident that they have the power and the talent to succeed, if only they apply themselves and make use of what God has given them. Well, God too has given all of us all that is necessary for a life of godliness and virtue in participation in the divine nature (1 Peter 1.3-4). There is no good reason not to make every use of them, training ourselves with discipline like athletes! Like Graham Greene writes in The Power and the Glory, at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is being a saint. That is within the reach of any of us, if only we would apply ourselves and make use of God's graces as he gives us them.