A Fresh Start

“You show the green ball when he is doing well and the red ball when his behavior is unacceptable.”

I nodded and tried to seem interested, but my attention was not fully focused.

The young man had good intentions, and his ideas for helping the student in our class were ponderable, but he offered his suggestions on the last day of school before the Christmas Break.

My teaching partner and I smiled at each other in silent agreement. When our little friend returns after being home for two weeks would be the more appropriate time to introduce new approaches to improving his school behavior. It would be a fresh start for all of us.

We often approach January 1 with the idea of “a fresh start” in our minds. “I will eat better,” “I will exercise more,” or “I will give up a bad habit” are some of the resolutions made as the number changes on the calendar. It’s too bad our willpower and our lofty goals don’t become friends.

For many people, the start is strong, but they tire as the race continues. When they stumble, they lose stamina. When they fall, they don’t have the strength to get up. They feel like there’s no way to win the race anymore, so they might as well give up trying. Maybe next year will be a more successful fresh start.

I’m happy that God doesn’t see my failures as insurmountable hurdles like we seem to do. Lamentations 3:22-23 describe God’s mercy towards us:

EACH morning! His mercy extends to me with a fresh start every morning, not just at the beginning of a new year. So, when I stumble in my walk with Him and exhibit less-than-godly behavior, He waits with His arms open wide for me to go to Him to receive His love and forgiveness.

The start of this race began the day I began a relationship with the Heavenly Father: the day I asked Jesus to be my running partner in this life. Some days I might not feel fit enough to run, but that doesn’t mean I’ll give up. God’s mercy is fresh, and His strength is available if I ask for it.

All along the sides of the track, there is fresh water held out to me in the form of His Word (the Bible) and fellow believers who cheer me on with encouragement and prayers. I need to take advantage of these to stay focused and connected to the race. How easy it would be for my mind to wander, which could lead to a faltered step.

There’s nothing wrong with fresh starts, but journeys that end with failure because of lofty goals or a weak resolve often make us feel terrible about ourselves. At that point, we wish we’d never started the race.

Today, as we reflect on the year that has passed with gratitude and maybe some regrets, we turn our face toward tomorrow morning’s mercies—God’s mercies. Yes, eating healthier, exercising more, and chasing our dreams can be part of our race, but, ultimately, if our New Year’s resolution is a closer walk with God, those other things can be achieved through His strength. And when we do give in to our taste buds (when there are salt and vinegar chips served with a bowl of delectable chocolate-covered almonds), His mercies are new every morning, and we can start fresh again the next day. Our prayers in the grocery store might prevent a few of those treats from sneaking into our carts.

Let’s fall into step with the writer of Hebrews in our spiritual race:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.

hebrews 12:1-3 (NLT)

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Do you follow through with them? Don’t feel too bad if you don’t—you’ve got company. According to Happy Habits.com, only 9-12% of people make it through the year without dropping their resolve.

Why don’t you join me in asking God for a closer walk with Him in the new year? Then we will resolve to pray more, keeping our Father in the loop and asking for His advice and guidance in our decisions. We will create or cultivate daily habits of reading the Bible and learning more about Him. Attending a church where we will join other believers in praise and fellowship can finish the list of resolutions. When we care for ourselves spiritually, we may find our goals to improve our physical health are much easier to chase.

Tie up those runners and jump onto the track—the race with God as your running partner is the only one worth joining. Whatever hurdles you face this year, He will be there to hold your hand and keep you upright.

Wake up to a fresh start—not only on New Year’s Day but every morning after that!

Father, as I reflect on the past 365 days, I thank You for all Your blessings and small miracles. Thank You for Your love and faithfulness to me that provided mercy when I stumbled in my race and for the strength and courage You gave me to face my more challenging moments.

I invite You to join me in the race again this year—I don’t even want to know what trying to participate without You would feel like. With a fresh start every morning and You by my side, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13)! Amen.

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