“Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.” – Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
That is not a bad way to summarise our futility in wishing one another a happy new year. Why?
Because we know deep in our bones there is no real newness.
We are, in all likelihood, going to repeat
the oldness, badness and sadness of life.
On the macro front, we are to going to face an annual quota of natural disasters of earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and fires.
There will then be an immediate outpouring of global compassion and aid. And then lasting help for the victims will dissipate as swiftly as the disasters came upon us.
Similarly, we are going to face manmade disasters of wars, terrors and horrors. We are going to say “never again” after another war, genocide or terrorist act, only to repeat our arsenal of meanness to others ever so predictably.
On the domestic front, we are going to repeat the same petty disrespect of our parents, the same petty dissatisfaction with our spouses, the same frustrations with our kids.
We are going repeat the same discontentment with work, play and Life (yes with a capital L)!
Jesus said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up the cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
The Lord Jesus Christ is the only one who can offer us real and forever newness.
Our problem is not that our wishes for a new year and the newness of life is insincere but that the wisher – you and I – is flawed and fickle.
At the heart of Jesus’ invitation is an “either or”, not a “both and”, proposition to true newness of life.
We either humbly accept Jesus’ offer to forgive us and to reboot us. Or we proudly carry on with our self aspiration to fake life and make something of ourselves without God.
Put another way, unless we experience the nothingness of self, we will never experience the newness of life through Jesus alone.
Many of us are “half dead, half alive”. We only “half died” to our self-seeking, self-sufficiency and self-glory. We still think we have some innate wisdom and inexhaustible power to live truly without truly giving ourselves to God.
And so, we are only “half alive” to humbly seeking God, surrendering to Jesus and glorifying God.
Often time, God has to kindly, not cruelly, bring us to a moment or a season of “nothingness” – a sapping illness, a tragic accident, an unsolvable crisis, a deep darkness or an irreconcilable brokenness – before we can experience the true newness of life that can be found in Christ alone.
Here is a prayer we can all pray: “Heavenly Father, please grace me to humbly embrace my God-given moments of nothingness so that I unreservedly enjoy true newness in my heart and home through Christ and Christ alone.”
Only then can we wish one another a new year. Only then can we get out of our quiet and desperate insanity of doing the same thing each year – like addicted alcoholics sipping on hopeless well wishes – while expecting a different outcome.
I wish you Jesus and forever newness! Only then can our oldness, badness and sadness be turned into newness, goodness and joyfulness. Amen.