It’s 2024! How did you celebrate the arrival of Leap Year?
Populating Times Square?
Pooped out with Covid, maybe?
If you’re like me, you were in your PJs Sunday night long before the ball dropped and the
Roman candles and sparklers ascended. Most of us had enough personal drama in 2023 that we had no need for fireworks, and maybe we dropped enough balls of our own this past year not to need the reminder!
But did you feel it, friends? That infinitesimal rush of wind? The almost indiscernible
movement in the atmosphere as the door closed on one year and simultaneously opened on another? Nothing has changed and yet everything has. This newly born year that's just swung open is a space none of us has occupied before, and we’re free to furnish it as we will.
We have lots of currency to spend:
366 days (we get an extra one this year!)
Writers are fond of quoting poet Mary Oliver’s poignant question: “Tell me, what is it
you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Let’s rephrase that question this way:
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your 366 days this year? Your 8760 hours? Your 525,600 moments?
Many of us are familiar with the counsel of Isaiah: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past” (43:18), but that doesn’t mean we’re to wipe the mental slate clean at the start of each new year. The wise old prophet seems to be exhorting us not to live in the past as soon are wont to do: ruminating over past hurts, nursing old grudges like a guy at a bar making his liquor last.
Instead, Scripture tells us repeatedly that we are to reflect, to remember, because if we forget our history with God and what He’s done in our lives, we’re headed instead for the quicksand of continually making the same mistakes.
If we don’t learn from the past, we do the same things over and over again, expecting different results.
We might repeatedly try to repair relationships in ways that have never worked before, forgetting that we are to live in peace with others “as much as it’s up to us” (Romans 12:18).
But you know what? It might never have been up to you in the first place. You’ve done what you can to fix those issues in your family, and remembering what you’ve already tried can release you from the burden of self-blame. Love them and keep the door of your heart ajar, but remember you’re not in control of anyone else’s choices except your own.
If we don’t reflect on the past, we might make resolutions without first acquiring the tools to ensure they’ll stick. Instead of setting unrealistic goals, try choosing one or two new things you’ve not tried before. Even repeated “failure” moves you closer to eventual success.
Honestly, I’ve been unsuccessful at reading the Bible through in who-knows-how-long, so rather than going it alone as in previous years, I’ve joined a Facebook group for accountability (Janet McHenry’s 2024 “Bible Girls”). I’ve also printed out her reading plan.
And my “7 for 70” fitness goals I didn’t reach in 2023? I’ve got six more months to attain them, and new tools in my belt to use. No more "trying" - this is the year to DO.
Remember the question God’s angel posed to single mom Hagar in Genesis 16? “Where have you come from, and where are you going?”
Perhaps I can be the messenger presenting you with that same question today: Where have you come from in 2023?
What were the gains you can glorify God for? What were the losses you need to release to him? How can you shake the dust off your feet from the places where your presence was not welcome nor required?
And finally: Where are you going in 2024?
When fireworks light up the skies next New Year’s Eve, how might things look differently than they do now? Prayerfully commit your intentions to the One who has promised to perfect all that concerns us.
The One who is Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.
The One who exists yet in our past, is eternally present, and is already at work in a future we may or may not see.
We’re on this journey together, friends, and grace will lead us home.
It knows the way.
-Maggie Wallem Rowe, 2024
Maggie Wallem Rowe is a fellow traveler who writes from Peace Ridge, her home in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. The author of This Life We Share and Life is Sweet, Y'all, Maggie loves bluegrass, barbecue, and mountain dancing. But mostly, she loves what God esteems most: people.