In with the New

by Elizabeth Daghfal

It seems we are a people who love new beginnings. Turning over a new leaf. Wiping the slate clean. Starting over. Waking up to the dawn of a new day. Getting second chances.

As a child, no matter how much I loved summer vacation, there was always a tinge of excitement in getting ready for the new school year: new things to learn, a gradebook fresh and clean with no sorry grades to have to make up. New textbooks, new notebooks, newly sharpened long pencils, and a brand-new box of crayons—not a single one broken.

The beginning of the new calendar year is no different. We set new goals. New diets. New exercise regimens. New disciplines. It’s the new “Day One.” Hence, my family tradition: Cleaning out the house on New Year’s Eve. I have to admit, it makes me giddy thinking about it—organising and straightening and unloading what we no longer need. And doing it together as a family makes it a party, right? Okay, sometimes it’s a hard sell. I do try to make it fun: the whole adding-sweet-flavours-to-medicine idea. We put on music, I give snack breaks, and I don’t complain when they take short pauses to play ping pong. As long as the pauses aren’t cruise vacations.

And when it’s all done, that evening’s ringing-in-the-New- Year celebration is so much sweeter knowing we are starting the year with a clean house.

I believe it’s a God-given love: the yearning to be a new creation, uncontaminated by the mess that we make of our lives.Even in this picture, it seems the gospel “has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven.” [Col. 1:23] We long to be made new!

Sometimes it seems like a never-ending process—kind of like how my kids feel on that last day of the old year when they’re stuck with dusty boxes and cleaning supplies. But how sweet the celebration will be when midnight comes and we see how He has cleaned our house.

Of course, while I can clean up my own house, I can’t clean up my own life. Oh, maybe I can for a day. Even two, if I have incredible willpower. May be. But sooner or later, I will fall back into my old ways— growing impatient with my kids, wanting my own way over my husband’s, wasting time on unimportant things—unless something completely changes me— completely makes me new. And there it is! That truth of salvation: 2 Cor. 5:17—”Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”Ahh, the comfort in knowing that, even with all the messes I’ve made of my life, because of Christ’s blood, God sees my life’s slate wiped spotlessly clean; and one day I will step on heaven’s shores, to an eternity of perfect new days.

But meanwhile, daily—and sometimes minute by minute—He organises and straightens my thoughts and actions, unloading what I don’t need because it’s nothing but trash. For, “the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, corrupt through deceitful desires, and to put on the new self, renewed, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. [Eph. 4:21-24, paraphrased] Granted, that putting off/putting on can ONLY be done with Christ. On our own, we tend to get lost and throw the baby out with the bathwater. One year, after I had given my kids instructions on separating unnecessary toys from the classic toys—which I carefully saved year after year for young visitors and future grandchildren—I ran out to do some shopping. When I got home, I was pleased to find the house looking spotless. Until I realized WHY it was so spotless. They had decided that ALL my classic toys were unnecessary. Hey, why organise when you can just unload it all?

No, when we try to clean separate from Christ, we struggle to recognise real value and right motives. But with Him, we are “renewed to a true knowledge in the image of our Creator.”[Col. 3:10]

Sometimes it seems like a neverending process—kind of like how my kids feel on that last day of the old year when they’re stuck with dusty boxes and cleaning supplies. But how sweet the celebration will be when midnight comes and we see how He has cleaned our house. “On that day, the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me the crown of righteousness. And not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” [2 Tim. 4:8] We will stand before Him and find ourselves in new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. (2 Pet. 3:13)

Yes, we are a people who love new beginnings, a God-given trait given to lead us to God Himself. So, “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, …press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13-14) Happy New Year!

Elizabeth Daghfal is a freelance writer and columnist in Kenosha, Wisconsin where she lives with her husband David and five children.

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