And here we are! It’s 2018. Every year, we get an opportunity to start fresh. This new year is a blank slate, and we each have the ability to make of it what we will. Whether your goals are vocational, educational, relational, or otherwise, you’ve got an entire year ahead of you to accomplish them in the ways that you see fit. No matter what life situation we might be in, we each find ourselves at a beginning point right now as we begin 2018.
Along with the new year, I’ve had a recent fresh start in my personal life: a new relationship. A few weeks ago, I asked my friend Katherine if she’d like to be my girlfriend, and a funny thing happened. She said yes!
Needless to say, I’ve been thinking a lot about beginnings as of late. As I take on the new year, a new romantic endeavor, and maybe even a new creative project or two, I want to make sure that I’m clear on what these beginnings are and how I can best handle them. And of course, I thought I’d share my reflections with you, because it wouldn’t be a real thought experiment if I didn’t blog about it, right? Here’s where I’m at when it comes to new beginnings.
The most salient characteristic of beginnings—and the one easiest for us to relate to—is that they are exciting. They’re full of unlimited potential and nothing to hold us back from fulfilling that potential. They can be whatever we want them to be. Looking out over a blank calendar, we get the sense that it can be filled with anything at all, and that can leave us feeling excited and motivated to make the most of these opportunities.
But that excitement isn’t without its hangups. You see, excitement is nice. It’s fun. It’s exhilarating, even. And it has the ability to lead to some amazing things, but only under the right circumstances. And that’s why new beginnings require a great deal of discernment.
To me at least, discernment is the process of taking an endless list of possibilities and narrowing it down to the set of steps that fits you as an individual. When I was preparing for ministry, I had to look at all of the possible areas that I could minister in and narrow it down to the one or two that I really felt God leading me to work in. That was a long, sometimes difficult, process of discernment, but we each have to practice this sort of discernment when we start something new.
Because as exciting as new beginnings can be, they can also be daunting. A blank slate means endless possibilities, but how are we to choose just a few? How do we know which potential path is the one that will lead us to where we want to be? How do we begin? If we don’t take the time to answer these questions, we end up like a child in the cereal aisle of a grocery store, basking in the plethora of possibilities but never able to commit to any one of them. And before long, we find that the opportunity to take advantage of the beginning is over. Suddenly, it’s March, and we haven’t even taken that first step yet.
And so we must be intentional whenever we come to a new beginning. Last week, we talked about endings, and one of the biggest takeaways was that endings give us an opportunity to learn so that we can do better next time. And beginnings are when we have a chance to put that learning into practice.
Trying to be healthier this year? What did you try last time that worked well (or not), and what do you need to change to make this attempt more successful? Want to start a relationship off on the right foot? What are your intentions for it, and what do you want it to be centered around? How are you ensuring that you’re in the mental and emotional place you need to be to set yourself up for success? These are the sorts of questions that tend to get rushed over when we’re excited about new beginnings. But they have the power to give us the gifts of intentionality and discernment (and all of the benefits that come along with them) if we’ll only take the time to ask them.
Please don’t get me wrong: I’m all about excitement. Believe me, I’m excited about my new beginnings, too. But I’ve started and failed at too many things to keep doing it the same way over and over. And I car way too much about these new beginnings not to give them the attention and preparation they deserve. As you’re thinking about what you want to accomplish this year, I hope that you’ll do the same. These new beginnings are opportunities to make lasting change, and we can each do it if we approach them with discernment, intentionality, and, yes, a healthy dose of excitement.
Thanks for reading, friends. Happy new year, and I’ll see you next week!