The new year is only a few weeks old. As with every beginning, it’s easy to think about the immediate past and look forward to the promise of the future. Almost instinctively, our reflections give way to a reignited enthusiasm for what’s to come.
Culturally, this reflective attraction to the new possible often translates into goal setting. With renewed energy, we sift through our memories, actions and previous intentions in search of meaningful directions. Whether looking to lose a few pounds, find new relationships or start a new career, this search is powerful precisely because of the personal intensity, drive and investment behind it. For many, this exploration means evaluating our relationships, lifestyles and aspirations.
From a faith perspective, this rhythmic renewal isn’t really novel. In every age, the human spirit has sought to go beyond itself in search of greater authenticity, meaning, truth and change. Far from growing tired or apathetic in the search for transformation, the religious person has found solace and encouragement in their faith.
“Did you not know? Yahweh is the everlasting God … He does not grow tired or weary, His understanding is beyond fathoming. He gives strength to the weary, He strengthens the powerless” (Isaiah 40: 28-31). By reflecting on what God has done for us, we are able to find the hope and power to do our part and know that our endeavors aren’t in vain.
Similarly, when we reflect on our spiritual disciplines leading us to personal growth and maturity, we see God’s power and grace working in and through us. In prayer and worship with others, and in our personal individual devotions, we readily note how God is walking with us, encouraging us to be better. And in our spiritual discernment, it isn’t difficult to survey this past year and discover moments of God’s love and care. Or, when we reflect on our shortcomings and failures, we can tell how much God continues to be a faithful companion, pointing us to conversion. No matter how much we may have accomplished or how disappointing our failures may have been this past year, there is always room for improvement.
This spirit of conversion and grace, then, never tires of inviting us to be more than our limitations and more than what our aspirations can fathom. In the grace of conversion, we are asked to open ourselves more to the loving plans God has for each of us. And in faith, we have come to know that our human desires, efforts and attempts at renewal are never far from the person of Christ who makes all things possible and new (Revelations 21:5).
By turning our minds and hearts to Christ, we are able to accomplish more and leave our old selves behind. “For surely you have heard about Him and were taught in Him, as truth is in Jesus. You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self … to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:21-23).
Mindful of our respective new goals and directions, I pray that our renewal in spirit and faith will also bring us closer to one another. And may our desires for what is most good, beautiful and true in our lives this year help us remain close to Christ.
F. Javier Orozco
First published January 24, 2019 in the St. Louis Review