Quarter till midnight on New Year’s Eve, the night dark and chilly, and somehow the stars that always twinkle just there, where He placed them, look like other-worldly confetti, like polished sterling fresh from the Refiner’s fire, scattered wide, celebrating glory. I glance up and I know deep: this new year is all His too.
I jog in the parking lot at the mall with Kevin, noting that my lower back feels stiff, a reminder of an early morning bike ride. At the entrance to the food court, runners trickle in and out, carrying bright yellow t-shirts in bundles, numbered bibs newly pinned mid-waist. A couple of kids stand by the doors handing out glow-stick necklaces in red and yellow, calling out in sweet voices, “Free glow sticks! Free!” Other runners weave in and around rows of cars. Muted laughter blends with the sounds of foot fall and our breathing.
10 minutes, and I can’t quite find the man talking on the microphone, even though I scan the groups gathered.
“Make your way to the starting line,” he calls, and so we do, and I reach down for my toes, trying to stretch and warm the muscles in my back. Heads bob as runners jump, readying, trying to stay warm.
Kevin and I smile at each other in the near midnight dark. We are doing this as we do everything else. Together.
5 minutes. A shout goes up in the gathering group of runners, some of whom wear party hats and crowns proclaiming Happy New Year in rhinestones. ”I’d like to say a prayer before we begin,” the man on the microphone says, and Kevin and I clasp our gloved hands as he gives the race to God and asks for blessing upon the runners and the Children’s Miracle League and the new year coming. He prays in Christ, and another shout goes up from the group, and Kevin and I lift our hands in the air.
“Go get ‘em,” I tell Kevin, who is faster and built with a longer stride, “I will see you at the finish.”
He smiles, and I see the light in his eyes, and together we begin to count down seconds aloud with the group. Just seconds until a new year is born, just seconds until we burst forth and run through the celebratory arch, the same one will run through to finish. 10. 9. 8. 7. 6. 5…
1 second, and the man with the microphone calls, “Happy New Year, everyone,” and fireworks shoot off around us and beside us for the first quarter mile, sparking streams of beautiful golden light, popping, celebrating our beginning and all beginnings, a new year.
When I run past the last of the fireworks, I realize I am pacing too fast. It makes me smile, the way adrenaline, competition, moving as a group, the way encouragement of any kind spurs us on. Just a little shared enthusiasm and everything feels more possible. We begin to forget our limitations.
I reign it in just a little to preserve my effort for the last mile, but not so much as to give up on competing against myself. Even short races require a bit of strategy. Half way through and there are already people stopping to walk, even a few sitting for a minute on the curb. It doesn’t pay to make assumptions. Some runners plan intervals for walking (I did this myself when I ran the marathon last fall), some run for the cause even though they’ve had little time to train, some start off too quickly and sprint too hard and their bodies just won’t, and sometimes a run is just hard when it shouldn’t be. A hard run is still a run, and so we wonder why, but we run on.
This race, there will be no walking for me. As a runner, one of my goals this year is to improve my speed, to try for a PR in all efforts, including the half marathon and the full. So my training includes speed work. I don’t yet know what my strategy will be in longer races. The training will tell. But shorter races are made for faster, and I feel well trained and ready for this one. I run hard and strong, all the way to the finish.
Kevin stands waiting for me, having finished just over four and a half minutes ahead, and we smile at each other under the stars, sweaty and breathing hard and elated. And this begins our new year, our 2013.
And it occurs to me that I used to let one year slide into another without really thinking about it, without reflecting on time coming, without honoring the beauty of new beginnings.
This new year has come much differently for me, and I don’t know why, exactly, but I think it has something to do with this: God has lately redefined Himself for me as Redeemer. He has sculpted me carefully, broadening all I knew of resurrection. He opens my eyes and teaches me to look, to see. 2012 felt like an endless conversation with Him, a walk in which He showed me that new is something He loves, it is His artistry. Behold, I have made all things new, is His breath, His truth, His reflection engraved in history. Into my moments, He has whispered again and again that for Him, new is completely new. It is not the old refashioned. New is the butterfly, melted into nothing and reconstructed in the cocoon. New is a soul unable to reflect the past to which she died. New is tragedy, impossibility, and heartbreak redeemed by grace. It is ruins swept clean and a new dwelling built.
And what must be built on His new is all imperishable. This new year is His. And do you wonder what He will build in it? How He will build us together (Ephesians 2:19-22)?
I ran across a list of hopes written by Shane Claiborne, who is the author of the provocative and soul-challenging book, The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical, and I decided to write a list of my own. It occurs to me that I am never ready to run a race for which I haven’t trained, about which I have planned no strategy. And to run the race to which I have been called (Hebrews 12:1), I must have a training plan that runs deep, built on prayer and so much dreaming with God about what kingdom means to Him.
So, here goes, the list He’s whispered to me, the one for which I am being transformed. And with fireworks shooting off in the first quarter mile:
1. I hope to live resurrected, without a shadow of the woman I was before He touched me. I hope that being myself will one day only mean reflecting Him.
2. I hope to learn to Love His way, well past difficult and unsightly and different, well past ugly and hurtful, expecting nothing in response.
3. I hope to help someone still blind see the new they are.
4. I hope God will let me show someone His Christ with my own offered hands, my own given heart. I hope He will let me do that for someone who has never met Him or just can’t quite wrap their lives around the idea that God loves that way, that much, even when they don’t or haven’t loved Him in return.
5. I hope to be available to God even in my weariest moments, and to live believing that He is more than the way things look to me.
6. I want to give and give and give everything He asks without calculating the cost to myself. And I want to do as much of that as possible without telling anyone else about it.
7. And I borrowed this one from Shane: I want to do for at least one person what I wish I could do for everyone.
8. I hope to speak only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen (Ephesians 4:29).
9. I want to tell people the good I see in them and the love I feel for them and the hope I have for the future.
10. I hope to be open to God’s interruption, available for His spontaneity, and listening for His voice. I want to remember that time comes. It doesn’t waste.
11. I hope to daily offer the little I have with open hands, that God might multiply and satisfy many, because that’s what He does with surrender. And I hope that the miracle will be clearly seen as His.
12. I want to be a blessing that reflects the abundance of His wealth. And I want to proclaim His grace poured out to me to overflowing and offer that same grace to others. I want to say and live thank you, counting the gifts He’s given freely.
13. And oh, how I hope to follow (Matthew 10:37-39), to break the alabaster box (Luke 7:36-50), to say yes to each need He places right in front of me, step by step, day by day, moment by moment. I want to live kingdom now.
So, I wonder, what is the list He’s whispering to you?
Run. Run hard and fast and long under His shining stars. And I’ll see you at the finish.
Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland (Isaiah 43:18,19).