I read his words in the early morning hours of 2013, beginning words about new things, new hopes, new desires (especially as it pertains to those who busy themselves with resolution list-making):
“They believe that a good intention already means a new beginning; they believe that on their own they can make a new start whenever they want. But that is an evil illusion; only God can make a new beginning with people whenever God pleases, but not people with God. Therefore, people cannot make a new beginning at all; they can only pray for one.” (Bonhoeffer, God is in the Manger, pg. 80)
And so, I bow my head and heart and pray for one . . . a new beginning, knowing that anything I might conjure up impulsively will ultimately fail if God is not in it. I ask for a new heart, a new approach to living with the older history that resides inside my aging flesh. And I pray for eyes to see this new beginning as it arrives, to lay hold of it, and to fully live it, even when it’s uncomfortable . . . especially then. To receive a new beginning from God only to reject it in the end is to squander the blessing—ultimately, to make a mockery of the gift so earnestly sought after, so divinely given.
Don’t ask for a new beginning from God if you don’t want one, because to receive one and to waste it is irreverence at the highest level.
Accordingly, I tread humbly, yet willingly toward the Father on this first day of 2013 as I ask for my “new.” I cannot perceive it, not yet. I can only believe that it awaits me, knowing that as I ask for this bread, my Father will not respond with a stone. He will answer me with his “much more”—good gifts from his God-heart (see Mt. 7:7-11).
Along these lines, and for the past several years, I’ve made it my practice to choose an anchor verse that would serve as a foundational guideline for my comings and goings throughout the year—a “go to” word from the Word when other words fail . . . when my heart and soul lose focus. Last year’s anchor was rooted in Phil. 3:12-14 and the phrase “movement wins.” I cannot begin to chronicle for you the many ways these verses and that phrase have pushed me, fortified me, and encouraged me in 2012. Movement wins stands as forever strength for me going forward. I pray the same power to be present in and through the anchor verses that I’ve selected for the New Year. For the past few months, I’ve known that these would be God’s watchwords for my 2013.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor. 5:17-20)
The ministry and message of reconciliation—the Greek word katallage meaning “exchange, adjustment of a difference, restoration of the favor of God to sinners that repent and put their trust in the atoning death of Christ.”
God has placed me, placed all Christians, in the middle of a sacred exchange between himself and his created, between his holiness and man’s sinfulness. He has commissioned us to stand as a bridge linking the dying, fear-filled soul to the living, faithful God. What trust! What responsibility! What privilege!
Accordingly, I tread humbly toward the Father on this first day of 2013. To be a reconciler in the kingdom of God—to no longer regard anyone from a worldly point of view—is to ratchet up faith’s commitment. With the responsibility comes accountability, of this I am certain. And so, I cannot ask for this “new” with only good intentions to fuel my well-doing. God must be the energy behind this undertaking. He is the author and finisher of my faith; it all begins and ends with him. So must my bridge-building. Bridges built by good intentions will ultimately collapse. Bridges built by God’s intentions will stand forever, eternally upheld by the heart and hands of his love.
This is where I am this morning, kneeling on a bridge, and praying for strength enough to be one of God’s. He, alone, knows where these verses and this prayer will take me in the next twelve months.
What about you? What is the prayer of your heart on this first day of 2013? What leading from God is leading you to ask for your new beginning? What strength do you find in his Word? What anchor will be your “go to” word in coming days? I pray one finds you—a verse or an entire chapter of holy writ that will work its way into your soul and serve as a strong foundation for your faith in coming days. Think on it; pray on it, and as it arrives, inscribe it upon your heart.
Don’t waste your new beginning; live it like you mean it. I’ll meet you on the road, and I’ll link arms with you in prayer for the steps ahead.
God will see to it all.