By Minister Judy Stack
[Published in the Gethsemane January Newsletter.]
By now you are all being inundated with ads for the new year. Ads that ask you to think about what kind of person you want to be in the new year—healthier, smarter, more successful, etc.—and promote their products as a way to become this.
Their message of “A new year, a new you!” is often very successful. Who doesn’t want to have a better life than they had last year? But these ads play on some of our deepest fears and insecurities, mainly the fear that we just aren’t good enough as we are. That who we are is flawed and needs to be fixed, and that we are mostly failing at that project.
I am certainly in favor of committing ourselves to making better choices in the year ahead, but what if those better choices didn’t require you to be a “new you” but just you?
The month of January in named for the Roman god Janus—a god with two faces, one that looked forward and one that looked back. January is a time for this looking back at the past year and looking forward to the year ahead. For assessing where we’ve been and where we want to go.
But I think that we sometimes think that the “where we want to go” will require us to become something we aren’t. This, I think, reveals a fundamental area where we don’t trust God. What if God has already put in you everything you need to be who God calls you to be? What if you aren’t lacking anything?
Now, all of us have certainly fallen short of being who God calls us to be in the past year. But what if you don’t need a new you to be that person, but your old you? A you so old, you maybe have never seen it. The you that you were meant to be, the you God originally created you to be.
One of my favorite Christian bands has a song with these lines:
Concentrating. I’m loving and hating myself again.
Impersonating the smallest shadow of my original self, again.
Most of us are, I think, like this singer barely managing to impersonate a shadow of the original self God made us to be. This is why many of us are so unhappy.
As we look forward to who we want to be in the year ahead, we need to keep thinking about who God originally made us to be—what our special innate gifts and passions are, what our natural strengths and insights are. If we don’t look back as well as forward (like Janus), we risk being pulled toward things we were never called to be, goals we were never made to attain.
Don’t let the noise and ads and expectations of the world around you set your goals for you. Ask God to help you see who you were made to be—the “old you,” the original, beautifully gifted person who already has all that you need inside you to do what you are called to do. That is a worthy goal for the year ahead!