Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)
Deep breath. The third day of a new year. New: Having been made or come into being only a short time ago... Still fresh... Never been used or worn before... Just found, discovered, or learnt... Not previously experienced or encountered, novel or unfamiliar... Different from the former or the old... Recently obtained or acquired... Changed for the better, rejuvenated... Being the latter or latest in a sequence... Being remade into a different likeness...
Up here in our hill-top home, I have so often been made aware of how new each day is. Never is the same canvas repeated. On some days the view to the three mounts is clear and they tower over all that is good and green. Some days a veil is drawn over it all and my focus is brought closer to a spider-web, slung low with moisture, clinging to the threads like resin to pine. Autumn spreads out in a riot of colour or drifting leaves, and winter varies from pale hues to pure white during the snows. This morning, after three days of sunshine and dreamy clouds in a wide blue sky, the day is soft. The limbs of a silver birch outside my window tickle the breeze, with cool mists drifting and reaching for our cabin.
With a chuckle I pick up the sound of a man's voice, roaring and barking, bellowing out the Hogsback version of the Maori "haka" war cry. Very intimidating if you are a baboon, but rather amusing to witness if you're not. (Especially if it's your soft-spoken husband doing the roaring...)
After yet another time of family togetherness came to an end, an afternoon of strange silence passed. A sense of weariness settled on us, and I briefly looked back on the season of celebration, sweet sharing and conflicting emotions. A song started somewhere in the back of my mind, found its melody, and when evening came, I realised I had been singing it - without really hearing. During the final hours of last year, I remember telling my husband how over the previous years, I had been given a verse of Scripture at the start of the year, to make my own over the months to come. I did not want it to become something I simply expected or took for granted. Like a jaded new year's resolution. So I set the thought aside, until I "heard" the lyrics that had been on my lips for the greater part of the next day. Last night I repeated the chorus to my husband and asked him if he knew where it is found in the bible:
"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
His mercies never come to an end.
They are new every morning, new every morning,
Great is Thy faithfulness oh Lord,
Great is Thy faithfulness..."
These words are written in Lamentations 3:22-23, almost verbatim. Before I went to sleep, I read over the whole chapter, a part of the prophet Jeremiah's lament about the state of his people's hearts and his own condition. He starts off by saying: "I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of the Lord's wrath. He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light; indeed"...Then he says in verse 20-21: "Surely my soul remembers. And is bowed down within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope..."
In what was Jeremiah's hope anchored?
v22-23:"The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease". Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning".
With a sense of wonder I realised, God gave me a song in my heart, straight from His Word and His heart. The English Standard version (from which the lyrics were taken) uses the word "steadfast" in stead of faithful - meaning constant, unwavering, unchanging. Yes! my heart answered, whatever this year may bring, however high or low I may be brought - His love is stead fast, never fails, never gives up, never runs out.
Then follows the best part: His mercies never cease...They are new every morning...(ESV). Truly the Lord is faithful, steadfast, the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Yet with each new dawn, His mercies are fresh and new. Like a rock, solid and un-moving, but with fresh living water flowing from it and into our lives each day. To revive us, give us hope, renew us to His likeness, regardless of yesterday or the day before.
We do not need to be "better" this year. Whatever we have resolved to become or to achieve, if it is not subjected to His will, it will be futile. He most certainly wants us to prosper, but not in the way the world expects. If we let go of our own ideals and motives, and let more of Jesus be reflected through us, it will not only change and grow who we are, but also ripple out into a spiritually hungry world.
The winding path to our back door is flanked by various shrubs and plants that each give off a distinct scent as you brush past them. It leads you through a haze of apple- and spear-mint, rose geranium, lemon verbena, lavender, penny-royal and mock orange; and I often walk into the house with the wonderful perfume still in my nose or on my skin.
Such is a life with Jesus. Constant "contact" with Him, lends us a sweet fragrance, which we carry into the world each day. It beckons or repels, depending on a person's state of heart. As it wears off, and we feel ourselves being wearied by the stale state of the world, we may draw near to Him and be refreshed. Regardless of how "good" or "bad" we have been, His mercies are new and available to us every single day. It covers us, our sin, our past, our flawed efforts at being "great". For there is only One who is truly Great. And since we could never hope or aspire to find greatness within ourselves, it is so beautiful to know - He has been all that for us already. Know this with me: I am a new creation in Christ, my name is written on His palm, I am seated in heavenly places with Jesus, I am victorious and have overcome the world with Him.
This makes me feel bold, dizzy and brave. Ready to be changed, challenged - to walk out on a limb, far above the buzz and dazzle of fleeting pleasures, to a life of soaring with the King. Knowing that it is His wings that give me flight, His strength that I will draw on through the storms, and His arms that I may rest on when I grow weary.
From Everlasting to Everlasting - He is God. So beyond what we can ever imagine, yet near enough to be a precious friend and Saviour. Don't dare to just "dream big" this year, dare to let Him unfold a reality that is far larger than our limited dreams and desires. He will take your breath away with wider horizons, higher destinations, deep, deep peace and an all embracing love.