If there was a Scrooge for New Year’s Day, it would be me. My hate of New Year’s Day has been a long standing hate that grows deeper with each passing year.
It is as if I have selective amnesia when the calendar flips to January 1. No matter how bad the previous year was, I, like everyone else, charge into the year with wide eyed anticipation. I relish the promise of a fresh start. I am ready to leave all of my old problems, quirks, pain, and insecurity behind as I burst forth into a new, fresh life. However, my excitement usually begins to waiver around the third week of January. That is when disappointment and frustration creep in as I slowly realize that no matter how much determination and resolve I have, a new day does not mean that I miraculously transform into a new me. Determination and grit may temporarily camouflage my bad habits and insecurities, but I know that beneath the surface, the old me remains.
Why are New Year’s Resolutions so hard to keep? If I am truly committed to change, why aren’t strength of will and hard work enough to bring the transformation I crave?
This past summer, my kids went on a mission trip to Valdosta, Georgia. That week, my kids joined other youth groups from across the nation to paint homes in the sweltering Georgia heat. When the youth groups arrived at their worksites, they were armed with determination, new paint brushes, and cans of paint.
For the youth that had not painted a house before, their first inclination was to begin painting immediately. They did not know that before they could paint, the old, weathered paint needed to be scraped way.
If the kids swiped bright, fresh paint over the weathered beige, they would have witnessed a true, but short lived, transformation. The house would look beautiful for a few months, but as the house stood against the elements of wind, rain and sun, the bottom layers of paint would begin to crack. The cracks would spread, until the shiny new paint also cracked and peeled away.
Because we wanted the transformation to last, the youth scraped the houses for days. Many groups spent more time scraping the homes than they spent painting. Once they removed the old, they knew that the transformation would last for years to come.
Chasing change in my life is like painting a house. Over the years, I have tried to cover the surface layers of my life. I have rushed in and applied fresh color over the peeling layers of pain and hurt. However, because I didn’t take the time to remove the cracked and broken pieces beneath the surface, the change cannot last. No matter how hard I work to change, the old hurts and habits eventually begin to crack and peel. The change that I desperately seek will not last until I tediously examine myself and scrape away the broken pieces of my past.
In 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV), we are promised, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” If we want to be transformed to a new and better creation, we have to remove the old to make way for the new. If you enter each new year with the old you, cracked and peeling beneath the surface, disappointment is likely to follow.
As Peter Drucker said, “if you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.”