Originally published Tuesday, 20 January 2015.
Tonight in the bathtub my son wanted to practice holding his breath. The first time he got 24 seconds. Then I told him about the man who can hold his breath for 22 minutes. So then he tried, and tried, and tried, and a dozen times later he broke 30 seconds. When he came up sputtering from his long submersion, he grinned up at me with his two grown-up teeth and exclaimed, “I’m almost to the world record!” Before he dove back under again, he promised: “next time I’ll get a minute.”
At seven years old, my boy gleams with hope: hope of a world record or even a few seconds longer underwater. This hope flames bright in the young ones. Perhaps our capacity for wonder is best stoked by little goals and great imaginations; by knowing less and dreaming more.
But maybe this year you’ve forgotten what it feels like to hope for something more, different, altogether new for your future.
Maybe the obligations and disappointments of life have worn on you like fine sandpaper, constantly rubbing away, leaving you feeling more exposed, less hopeful; more like rotting rubber, less like a strong sapling.
But what my son has in him is not unique to him, or to little boys, or to children at all. What he has is what we all have, what you have. This is the most encouraging news of your life and a truth to hang your new year on:
We’ve all been given the extraordinary capacity to grow.
Growth is about not having it all figured out.
Growth is about not being a grown-up, but being a growing-up.
Growth is about knowing you can still be wrong, that you can still be learning, that you can still be refined.
Growth is about knowing there is wonder left for your soul, there is hope left for your life, there is something new that God has waiting for you in 2015.
The promise of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that we can be made new. The life of Jesus is not a transactional agreement with a distant God to give us a get-out-of-hell free card. Jesus didn’t come to just offer us a new way of dying. He offers you a relationship where he brings you along on a new way of living.
Living in Jesus is the hope of a soul that can be made new. The Bible promises that outwardly we are wasting away, which means that things are changing and no amount of working out, health shakes, vitamins, essential oils, amino acids, Botox or purified water is going to change that. But the Bible also promises that inwardly we are being renewed day by day. In the most important matters of who you really are, Jesus promises you can grow.
2015 can be your year, not because you grit your whitened teeth or flex your worked-out muscles to make it happen, but because you partner with God to grow. This can be your year to recapture wonder, to embrace joy. This can be your year to become more peaceful, to forgive, to love. This can be your year to notice people who go unnoticed, to cultivate compassion, to develop eyes for beauty, to grow gratitude, to finally give up that habit that’s weighing you down.
This can be your year to grow, because the most encouraging news of our entire lives is that we always, always have the opportunity to change. What an incredibly hopeful gift.
Happy New Year, my friends.