I am a big fan of “firsts.” Perhaps because I am a firstborn, it’s part of my nature to look for fresh starts, for do-overs, for new beginnings.
Christmas lights grow dim and we move toward the season of new days — the beginning of a new year. I have not yet secured my Moleskine pocket calendar for this year ahead, but a large-spaced 2013 wall calendar is hanging on the fridge behind the 2012 version and I’m happily marking down commitments and plans for the next 365 days. Two new devotionals lay beside other books I expect to begin in the months ahead, and a newly-acquired piece of exercise equipment waits to become part of my daily routine.
Reflecting on the close of this calendar year (and our narrow escape from the end of the world as we know it, according to Mayan tradition), I recognize several firsts that worked their way into the ending months of 2012 and I count it joy to have witnessed them.
A first smile and tentative first step by a 17-year-old relative has been cause for celebration. The deep sleep that helped heal a brain severely damaged in an auto accident has lifted and the young man who was expected to die from his injuries opened his eyes….smiled….sat unassisted….took wobbly steps…. for the first time — again.
A dear woman in our church speaks proudly of bagging her first doe this hunting season. At nearly 80, she donned the camouflage and picked up the shotgun to go hunting in honor of the man who walked with her through life, and slipped away to meet his Savior in the summer.
A first holiday season without my husband’s dear grandmother will bring tears and smiles as we gather at the close of this year to celebrate family. Without doubt, we’ll reflect on the ways Grandma Eva chose her “firsts.” A lifetime of simple adventures on the family farm gave her courage to add new experiences in her 8th decade and beyond:
- Stepping into the basket of a hot air balloon to get a birds’ eye view of the rolling fields of northern Indiana
- Picking up a paintbrush to create oil paintings treasured by her brood
- Donning a helmet for a motorcycle ride behind a son-in-law
Grandma’s fearless embrace of life’s opportunities inspire the women in her family and give them courage and permission to “give it a go.”
And a bittersweet “first” as the youngest son finishes his homeschooling career early so that we find ourselves without lesson plans, chapter assignments and papers to grade for the first time in 18 years. Son anxiously ushers in this year of his independence, and a season in which I will find myself without a child in the womb or at the dinner table for the first time in 30 years.
Pondering my list of “firsts,” it occurs to me that they represent links in the chain of life, rather than breaks from the past. New beginnings, do-overs — they tie promise to those days past. A fresh page is laid atop the one already filled with life’s happenings and we get to choose what to put on that blank new page.
King Solomon requested and received all wisdom from God. Yet, this Old Testament Scrooge wrote in his book “Ecclesiastes” that he considered all life “meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” With all his wisdom, Solomon found little in his world that promised hope — “So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me.”
But praise God that, in the end, Solomon did find meaning in his days, a reason for fresh starts.
“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments,” said Solomon, “for this is the whole duty of man.”
So that’s the crux of it. We get to claim those fresh starts and we can even fashion new “firsts” for ourselves. But in the end, what will give meaning to our days and lend color to those blank pages is the depth of our commitment to the One who created them in the first place. Anything less than living our “fresh start” days for Him is really nothing more than “a chasing after the wind.”
“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”