God has been so good to build rhythm and patterns into life. We don’t have to look very long or hard to see those moments in time where ‘new beginnings’ are possible. Night after night each day comes to an end. Morning by morning we are able to wake up and seek His mercy afresh. On a bigger scale, we’re given “summer and winter, springtime and harvest; sun, moon and stars, in their courses above.” The natural rhythms and patterns of life display an element of God’s intricate and perfect design.
With three little ones under foot, the summer months are full of fun things: splash pads and playgrounds, bubbles and chalk-covered sidewalks, bike-riding and picnics. So many good things we’ve enjoyed, but a season that is now coming to an end. For many, and for us, September signals a return to the regular patterns and routines that shape our everyday.
These past couple weeks, while away on vacation and removed from daily routine, Justin and I spent some time reflecting upon the bigger picture that these everyday life-rhythms have produced in our home. There are areas where I see incredible grace and even perceptible growth; this is so encouraging and point to His faithfulness. There are other patterns where we continue to struggle for consistency and true change; areas where there may have been spurts of enthusiastic growth, but that generally are characterized by stagnancy or struggle. Interestingly, areas of struggle also speak to God’s grace and faithfulness; there can be a degree of sorrow to look back and see my shortcomings and see my sin, but I’m so thankful and encouraged that my heart has not grown cold or apathetic but instead remained oriented towards Christ, desirous to begin afresh, wanting to continue this battle. It is His grace alone that is keeping me in that place of longing to be more like Christ rather than slipping into indifference.
There were several things that Justin and I reflected upon including things like how much time we’re spending one on one with each child, whether we're 'unplugging' enough, or how much time we're spending reading blog articles or on facebook. (Confession: the blog / facebook struggle is singularly mine, not shared by Justin at all.) For the second year in a row, the primary part of our family’s life where Justin and I long to see God give us more discipline and consistency is connected to the time we spend, as a family, reading God’s word and praying.
Daily family worship is something where we’ve known some sweet seasons of established pattern, and so we’ve tasted the grace and joy that it can bring to our family. But it is still something that can be so hard to live out with the kind of discipline and consistency that we desire. Noel Piper puts it this way:
“For me, not planning means my children receive a burst of God-talk for a day or two. Then when that particular gush of affection dies down, we’re back to just taking God for granted, rather than talking about him and recognizing him in all the parts of our day.”
(During the last couple days of our vacation, I read Noel Piper’s book Treasuring God in our Traditions. There was so much in the pages of this short book that were encouraging, inspiring, free of legalism, gentle, but still powerfully convicting. In the next few days, while her ideas and words are still fresh, I hope to write a bit more about her book and the ideas that have flowed from it.)
It’s hard to believe we’re nearing the end of August. I’m thankful for a wonderful summer coming to an end and full of anticipation for a new season where we can begin afresh. But though I’m thankful for this, a ‘new beginning’ is not where the Christian places their hope. My faith, my hope is in a God of immense power and infinite grace.
It only takes a few ‘new beginnings’ that quickly end in failure to realize that my hope is not in a fresh start. My hope is in Christ alone and the promise He has given to complete in me the work that He began. So as I anticipate the coming of a new season, and as I rightly translate my anticipation into concrete plans, I’m reminded that I’m entrusting my life and my family and all my plans into His hands.
My hope does not come from looking forward to a ‘new beginning.’ No, my hope comes from looking backward to that moment when I was already given the only new beginning that ultimately matters: a new beginning in Christ.
Growth in grace is at times painstakingly slow, sometimes nearly imperceptible. Yet I cling to a God who promises to equip me for doing His will and to produce in me those good things that are pleasing to Him. My hope for growth—for real, lasting growth—is because of what Jesus has already done.
Now may the God of peace—who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood—may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.