When the New Year Feels Old

When the New Year Feels Old

Maybe it’s just that the goals you set so enthusiastically in preparation for January 1st have kind of exploded in your face.

Or maybe it’s that you never even got around to setting goals at all—it was a luxury you couldn’t afford as time-crunched as your schedule already is.

Or maybe you didn’t write down any desires this year because you don’t even know what you want.

Any one of these factors can tarnish the shine right off a brand new year, and suddenly all the stuff we thought we left in the knapsack of the previous year shows up right on our backs again.

Instead of the lightness we expected, we feel heavy.

Instead of energized, we feel discouraged.

Instead of free, we feel fettered.

And we ask, “What happened to this lovely newness that was supposed to show up?”

If and when this happens, the first thing I am learning to remember is this:

There is no law saying I have to set/keep new goals simply because it’s a new year. If I cannot/don’t want to, I am completely allowed. This does not make me a bad person, a lazy person, a lesser person, or an unproductive person.

The new year feeling old makes me a person aware of my own limitations.

And isn’t that a gift?

When we know our limitations, we get to choose to stay within them, as much as is within our control. Granted, this isn’t always possible—we all know the feeling of being shoved beyond the boundaries of those limits by circumstances we don’t get to direct.

So for the times when we do see where our limits lie, and we choose to stay within them by saying ‘no’ to doing something just because it’s “that time of year”…this is not failure, it’s a success in it’s own right.

But what about when we still feel within our limits? And the drive or desire for forward motion seems to have disappeared? What about when this new year, an entire week young, already feels old?

Maybe it’s less that the year is old than that it is still becoming new.

My family had a garden when I lived in the Midwest. The soil was dark and rich, and there always seemed to be a cool breeze blowing through our backyard. Working in the earth and tending the plants in that quiet space was a delight. For the first time in my life, I enjoyed gardening.

One thing I know about digging in the dirt is that old, dead stuff provides the optimal environment for new life to sprout. Dead leaves, old coffee grounds and veggies, and empty eggshells all compost down into a lush loam just perfect for growing newness.

This picture helps me when something that is called “new” feels old. The metaphor reminds me that what I see isn’t all there is.

There’s more coming, from under the surface, through the tunnel of time.

Sometimes, the best growing happens in the dark, quiet, lonely places.

And it starts with the old, not the new. The old is always the foundation on which the new forms.

Let the oldness take her time. Freshness isn’t a thing to force. The newness will arrive in season.

And one more thing I try to remember: whether I feel it or not, I am always new in Christ. Always.

That is my identity, and it doesn’t change based on the year, or the obstacles, or the feelings, or the floundering.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;

the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!

2 Corinthians 5:17

My new life in Christ is a fact that doesn’t change with the season. It is steadfast, constant, and an ever-present reality.

Because new life in Christ is Christ himself, alive in me.

So let the new year feel old. Let the goal-setting go. Let the days be their ordinary selves.

Know that you are new. Sometimes, we’ll never feel it until we believe it.


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4 thoughts on “When the New Year Feels Old”

  1. “Sometimes, the best growing happens in the dark, quiet, lonely places.” That is my favorite quote from your blog post this time. Truly the time of fruit bearing is always preceded by a time of quiet and sometimes imperceptible growth. I love the thought of seasons and how God accomplishes His purposes in each season of our lives.

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