I have a confession for you. It’s a small one, but I’ve been sitting on it for a month. I don’t like January. I don’t get the phrase “Happy New Year”, and I can’t remember the last time I made a resolution. After the high expectations of early January, the uneventful slide into February is such a relief to me.

It’s not that I don’t see the appeal of stepping fresh into a new year, don’t find enticing the promises of the blank slate and being reborn, even in just one or two aspects of life. Nor am I much better or worse than the average millennial at upheaving my life and pursuing change or new goals.

No, what I don’t like about January is that to me, all that appeal and promise feel a little flat – a piece of convenient scenery, that if you just walked around the other side, it would turn out to be a disappointing charade. Now, I’m a natural cynic, so you enthusiastic types can freely roll your eyes at me for raining on your parade. But also, I’ve found that rebirth (of a certain, human-driven kind) is one of those things that gets both harder and less appealing as life knocks you down, over and over again. Metaphorically, of course.

I’ve been thinking about wisdom, maturity, and scars lately. About the kinds of things you can’t learn without living. As a bookworm and a learner, I’m not that fond of the concept, actually. How can there be things that all my reading, and all my listening, and all my learning, can’t help me understand? Things so big, like God, or so complicated, like knowing the right thing to do or say, or even so painful, like betrayal, that no description, however artful, and no story, however well-told, could ever help me grasp?

But, it turns out there are.

It turns out that some of life isn’t about knowing, it’s about living. And that means it’s about having lived.

The things you can’t wash off and leave behind come with a couple promises that turn the sorrows of this world inside out and upside down.

And if it’s about having lived, then I don’t want a new me every year. I want each year to carry the lessons of the last year, to know more about life and myself and God than I did last January. I want to grow in wisdom and knowledge, in faith and hope and love. It’s a good thing that’s what I want, because even though I could try to avoid the wisdom and maturity of new years, I can’t avoid the scars.

I have a big scar, from a surgery to fix a broken leg a few years ago. It’s about six inches long and oddly swoopy, but as faded as it is, it’s never going away. The first time I saw it, when the cast came off, I hated it. It represented a situation where I felt out of control and helpless and alone. It was ugly and scary and horrible. I can’t say I love it now, or that it was easy to type those words, it was not.

What I can say, and will say, is that I know its value. It reminds me that I’m still here. It reminds me of how God and so many others took care of me. It reminds me that it’s possible to forget how to walk, and also possible to relearn. It reminds me of what a joy and privilege it is to be able to walk. Some days, when I can be grateful for no big things, I can be grateful for being able to walk, and then I can start to remember all the other things I’m so used to that I forget they are gifts.

I wouldn’t have chosen the scar, or the pain I still feel on cold days and long staircases. And yet I’m not so sure I’d give it up if I could.

I have some other scars, not on my knee, but on my heart and my soul. They’re plenty big and ugly too. I suspect you have some of your own, since that’s how life is. If you don’t, it’s likely you will someday and I’m sorry and glad for you. The things you wish you could leave behind in “last year” that cling stubbornly into today often feel like the weights that hold you back from the life you want. You might hear you should forget them, pretend they never happened, to simply move on. I disagree, and not just because I think that’s not how you are made. Wounds heal. They do. Not as quickly as we wish, and rarely in the way we expect, but they do. And as they’ve healed, we’ve changed.

So I hope you don’t discount too quickly the value of the life you’ve lived through, the things you’re healing from. Because the things you can’t wash off and leave behind come with a couple promises that turn the sorrows of this world inside out and upside down. The first is one of my favourites from the psalms:

You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
Then my enemies will turn back
in the day when I call.
This I know, that God is for me. Psalm 56:8–9

Not that you would have no tears, no tossings, but that your God is marking every one of them, and that He is for you. The second is the best news, the promise of the Gospel itself – that the work and the joy of God is in redeeming your every scar for his glory and other’s good.

One critical, delightful, hopeful part of that promise is this, that nothing in life is exempt from it:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

So if some years seem heavier than others – and they certainly do – I’m glad that I can’t leave them behind. Even when I want to. Who knows what good I’d be giving up?

Read more articles by Andrea Parkhill or about Joy of Salvation.

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