I love New Year's. It's not because of the New Year's Eve celebration; it's not because the busyness of the holidays is over; it's not even because of the numerous college football games on television. I love New Year's because it signifies the end of a chapter, one that probably didn't reach my highest expectations yet holds the hopes, the dreams, and the possibilities of a whole new year.

Even though a new year almost seems "artificial" in some ways -- only minutes from one to the next -- I see it as a brand new start, a start that I need every year to help me get past the past.

Surprises

No matter how hard we try to plan and maintain a handle on (or control of) our own lives, each year all of us are faced with situations and circumstances that are completely out of our control.

A couple of weeks ago, I was at the post office picking up my mail and a young boy about 7 years old was opening a letter that his mother had given him. He let out a scream: "20 dollars!  I've got 20 dollars!" Just then his older sister, about 10 years old, said "I've got 60 dollars!" I remarked to them, "Wow, I hope I find money in my mail!" Their mother turned to me and said, "20 and 60 dollars isn't much coming from their father who left us, and he could do more instead of spending it on a 26-year-old."

Many families enter this New Year very differently from what they were a year ago. Besides relational disappointment, I know many families, including my brother's, are faced with a loss of work or some other financial struggle. Others still face the New Year fighting an illness, missing a loved one or without a home in the face of many disasters.

At times like these, Jesus speaks to us just as he did to a father named Jairus when he found out his daughter had just died: "Don't be afraid. Just trust me" (Mark 5:36, NLT).

Moving Forward

Looking back upon the last couple of years, I see disappointments in relationships, I see missed opportunities in business, I see friends who have passed away, and I see poor decisions in how I reacted to situations and how people reacted to me. But in order for me to move forward, to continue growing, to continue reaching for higher standards, I need to put aside what people have done to me, how people have treated me, poor decisions I've made, and past disappointments.

Paul says: "We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don't give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going … for our present troubles are quite small and won't last very long.  Yet they produce for us an immeasurable great glory that will last forever!  So we don't look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever" (2 Corinthians 4:8-9, 17-18, NLT).

Maybe you're like me, a "mature" single, never been married (with no immediate prospects), or like the woman in the post office, a single parent making the best for yourself and your family with the scars of a relationship gone astray. In either case, we can approach the New Year in the same way. But how?

Setting Goals

I just heard a question asked of rapper 50 Cent, who is one of the best-selling artists of the past year: "You have all of the money that you could want; what makes you happy now?" His answer: "To make goals and to achieve them." Maybe not from the best of role models, but that's not bad advice for all of us.

Each year I try to have some simple goals (ones that can be reached in a day or a week), some mid-range goals (ones that can be obtained in a month to a year) and some long-range goals (ones that may take years or longer to reach).

Whether they are spiritual, emotional, financial, physical, or relational goals, they all have some common denominators:

  • They have to be clear -- if you can't understand your goal, you'll never reach it.
  • They have to be reachable -- if you can't obtain the goal, what's the use having them?
  • They have to be communicated -- you have to stay accountable to others, and be encouraged by others.
  • They have to be written down -- you need to have your goals constantly in your mind in order to reach them.

There were many things that I was able to accomplish this past year, some things that I have put off for another year, and other things with which I have failed miserably. If I dwell on the negative and hang onto the past too much, I will miss new opportunities, new relationships and new possibilities.

Look forward to what you have not seen. Don't regret another year gone by; make this year one where you leave the past in the past.

Cliff Young is a contributing writer to Sandlot Stories (ARose Books). An architect and former youth worker, he now works with Christian musicians and consults for a number of Christian ministries. Got feedback?  Send your comments and questions to CYdmg@yahoo.com.