Why do we look forward to a new year? What is it about an arbitrary moment in our 365-day rotation around the sun that makes us want to shoot off fireworks and confetti in Times Square?
A few years ago, I asked our church this very question, and this was the response: “I think we like the hope of something new. It’s a clean slate.”
We are serial beginners.
Look across social media, and you will find all kinds of people with exciting new beginnings. Some of us are vowing to read 3,000 new books this year. Others of us are starting a new diet that consists of only foods that are purple. A new year means new gym memberships and new ballet bar/rock-climbing/tire throwing/tai chi hybrid classes.
We are a society that celebrates and longs for hope, new starts, second chances. It’s no accident. Whether we can articulate it or not, in the depths of our hearts fallen men and women long for new creation (Romans 8:22-23).
We are serial beginners for a reason. It’s splashy to start something new. It’s exciting to announce to the world our big intentions. New beginnings garner praise and pats on the back.
Starting is easy. Anyone can start literally anything. I can start a marathon tomorrow. But there’s really nothing spectacular or extraordinary in starting a race. The real glory is making it to the finish.
Better is the end.
As the new year approached, I couldn’t shake this verse from my mind:
“Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.” (Ecclesiastes 7:8)
In wiping our slates clean on New Year’s Eve to chalk up all of our exciting new beginnings, how many of us took any time to look back at all of the things we failed to finish last year? What is the point of beginning a new year with another shimmering list of big ideas and grand schemes if it will only be added to the pile of unfinished projects at the end of this year?
Certainly as Christians, our lives should be filled with all kinds of new creation realities (2 Cor. 5:17). However, so many of us are too quick to erase our failures without a second thought. What is it about us that sees no problem with being a great starter but an abysmal finisher?
Adam and Eve had the most fantastic beginning in the history of humanity. Still, a good beginning is worthless if there is no follow through.
Maybe this year needs to be your year of finishing well.
Maybe you need to dust off those projects and endeavors of last year or the year before and do the unsexy thing: finish them. Or perhaps you just need to re-engage in the mundane daily tasks that will be a part of your life for the foreseeable future. Your home, your church, your community would be a better place if it was filled with more people who were less concerned with the beginning of a thing than with reaching its end.
Pride is puffed up with good intentions. Patience faithfully plods toward the finish line step after step long after the sound of the applauding crowds has faded behind.
We worship a God whose beginnings are very good–but whose finishes are even better.
When we get to the end of time, we will marvel with the master of the feast: “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now!” (John 2:10).
Run with endurance.
As you begin this January, may you not only enjoy new beginnings, but may we all “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2-3). We want to be a people whose lives proclaim the power of God to bring about perseverance.
Let us pray and press on in the mundane middle of the race–when no one cares and no one sees, where the starting line has vanished and the finish line is nowhere in sight. Acknowledging failure but continuing forward, let us trust that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).