The Gift of Punctuated Time

By Gwen Sellers

Happy New Year! That's a greeting many of us will be hearing for the next few weeks. And then it will settle in that it really is 2015, we'll start more naturally writing the date correctly, and we'll move on with life as usual. Some of us will have made resolutions or goals, and we'll stick to them. Others may not have made specific goals but will have a sense of anticipation and excitement for what the year holds. Some may have already let go of their resolutions, perhaps becoming jaded and disbelieving that life could ever really change. And some may not feel anything in particular about the New Year, recognizing only a functional change in the way they write the date and to which tax year their financial decisions will apply. Is there anything significant about a new year?

A friend commented to me that although January 1 is really no more different from December 31 than any other new day, she likes that it feels like a fresh start. I agree. I write a lot about being present in each moment and learning to engage in the process of life rather than always striving to arrive at a specific goal. But there is something to be said for endings and beginnings. An article I recently read suggested that cultural fascination with apocalyptic-themed entertainment may be in response to a felt need to escape the "eternal present" we've created. Slowing down, being present in the moment, and appreciating the daily things of life is important. I contend that it is part of God's call on the lives of Christians. And it is not a message exclusive to Christians. Much of our culture has picked up on the importance of "mindfulness" and presence, the desire to enjoy what is without reliving the past or looking ahead to the future so much. But, as with many things, there is a balance. We can be so caught up in being present that we feel nothing ever changes. We forget to see what has been accomplished or forget that it is important to strive toward a goal. There is purpose to life that is wrapped up in an overarching story. As important as it is to live fully in the chapter in which we find ourselves, it is also important to remember where we've been and where we're going. So while the major realities of my life are no different on January 1 than they were on December 31, changing the date from 2014 to 2015 is a helpful reminder for me to pause and reflect.

It interests me that God not only created time, but punctuates it for us. Ecclesiastes 3 talks about there being a season for everything. God instituted several festivals for the Jews throughout the calendar year to remember, rest, repent, celebrate, and worship. The Church remembers Christ's death and resurrection through communion and baptism. New Testament writers speak both about God's past faithfulness and His promises for the future. They call readers to remember and to press ahead. Even the simplicity of a new morning speaks to beginnings and ends.

New Year's is a natural break in time — the end of one twelve month chunk and the beginning of the next. December 31 may represent a period on one season of life and January 1 the start of a new paragraph or even a new chapter. Or possibly it's just a period between sentences in the same paragraph. Maybe it's more like a comma or semicolon — not even a hard stop, but a communally recognized pause that something has been completed. No matter what my personal life season at New Year's, its celebration is a reminder for me to look back and celebrate God's faithfulness to me in the last year. It is an opportunity to consider the ways in which He has changed me and grown me. It is also a time to think about the ways I still need Him to work in my life. It is a time to examine my longings and bring my desires to God.

Will you join me in taking the opportunity afforded us with New Year's? Days may have passed since it officially became 2015, but it is not too late to pause and consider what the changing of the year means for you.

For some, reflection on 2014 may be more formal, perhaps even memorialized in a journal. For others, it will be something a bit more casual, perhaps a Facebook post or simply taking time to look through pictures from the year. For some it may be a private time of prayer. But no matter what it looks like, it is important to look back and to remember. What was 2014 for you? It is also important to look ahead. Again, this can be done in several ways. I know many people who make goals for the year. I've recently been introduced to the concept of a theme word for the year. Journaling and prayer also come to mind. However you do it, looking ahead can provide a sense of purposefulness in this life and perhaps even direction for going about your days.

I'm generally not one who celebrates the New Year in any big way, but I do appreciate the sense of newness that comes with January 1 of any year. This year, I appreciate the reminder to look back on 2014 and praise God for what He's done. And I accept the challenge to go to God with longings and ask Him to do big things in 2015. I like the feeling of one year completed and a fresh start for the next. I also like that God can start a fresh work in my life any time. He created time and helps us mark its passage, but He is not restrained to our calendars or our clocks.

I pray that no matter the mix of emotions reflection and looking ahead bring in your heart, you will know the hope that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord. May 2015 be a year in which He receives ever-increasing glory throughout the nations.

Image Credit: Keith Hall; "A pond for all seasons"; Creative Commons

TagsCelebrating-Holidays  | Christian-Life  | God-Father  | Personal-Life

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Published 1-6-15