Updated: Oct 24
It’s not always easy. In fact, I’d argue leaving things behind is one of the most difficult things we’re asked to do. Where do we draw the line between what we take with us and what we leave behind?
We made it.
It’s finally 2021, a year which last year felt as though it would never greet us.
The finish line of 2020 seemed to grow fainter in the distance rather than closer even though we were running toward it as fast as we could.
As the clock struck midnight and the ball dropped in Times Square, the age old question greeted us all:
What will be different about this year than the last?
The answer to this question always lies within another question:
What in years past will we choose to take with us?
And even more importantly, what in years past will we choose to leave behind?
On January 2nd, I got the privilege to officiate the wedding between two of my dearest friends.
The bride and her ceremony were beautiful as the sun began to shine on a day that was slated to be cloudy and cold.
As the two held hands and exchanged their vows, the audience and I watched as Ephesians 5:31 was fulfilled “...a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."
Yes, Allison and Hunter will forever remember 2021 as the year the two of them became one, but will they credit 2020 as the year they both put their old selves to death in order to do so?
Their new life together is only made possible by abandoning their old lives apart. Dying to self is what makes marriage both beautiful and terrifying for most people entering into the covenant.
If either party fails to do so fully, the marriage will not last.
But, why is this important? Because only so much of oneself is dictated from within.
Take the year 2020 for example.
2020 was a year of great expectation as the world set its sights on doing things bigger, better, faster, and stronger than ever before.
The number 2020 is symbolic of perfect vision and symmetry. This was supposed to be our year!
But, not long after the confetti fell on New Year’s Eve, 2020 took a turn for the worse.
I need not expand upon why, but 2020 will inevitably go down as one of the worst years in modern history.
2019, arguably one of the best in many ways.
While our focus is on the negatives of 2020, let us not forget what made 2020 such an unfortunate year was a virus that originated in 2019 and was brought into the new year.
It’s called COVID-19 and not COVID-20 for a reason.
While the virus was outside our control in many ways, I can’t think of a more appropriate example of how failing to leave something in the past can significantly affect the future.
We can argue all day about what measures could have and should have been taken to make leaving the virus in 2019 possible, but that’s not the objective of this post.
The point is, there is a line to be drawn between what we take with us and what gets left behind.
We don’t always get to control the entirety of what makes the cut, but I can assure you if we fail to recognize the line altogether, things will sneak into the future which should have been condemned to the past.
If your goal for 2021 is to become healthier, yet you fail to leave your poor eating habits in the past, your goal will be much harder to achieve.
If your goal is to achieve financial freedom this year, yet you fail to pay off past debts, getting into the black in 2021 will seem a daunting task.
See the point?
Some of our line is determined by us. Some is not.
We must focus primarily on what is within our locus of control, or whatever we believe to be in our control, rather than to harp on what is outside.
Allison and Hunter cannot control the COVID-19 pandemic, but Allison has been vaccinated to improve her chances of fending off infection in the future. Hopefully Hunter will get the vaccine soon, too.
Allison and Hunter cannot control what the enemy throws at their marriage, but they can both move forward together remembering the rope they tied during the ceremony and knowing that their cord of three strands is not easily broken.
They can’t fully know what they’re about to step into in this life together as one, but they can fully step out of their lives apart from one another, leaving behind what belongs in their respective pasts.
If marriage is anything, it’s the greatest exercise of dying to self daily as Paul explained in 1 Corinthians 15. It's the line in the sand.
Marriage is the ultimate opportunity to awake each morning approaching the day with a clean slate and to put the paintbrush down at night leaving what happened that day with the canvas on which it was drawn.
My metaphorical advice for this year’s canvas is this:
When you can help it, don’t mix two days' paints.
Use a new cup of water to clean off your brush before starting the next work.
Make sure your easel is sturdy before you start painting anew.
And, most importantly, be proud of the work you’re doing.
We’re only given a limited number of opportunities in this life to make something beautiful.
Before you dive head first into this new year, ask yourself these two questions:
What of yesterday have you brought into today?
What of today will you bring into tomorrow?
Find your line, and stick to it.
Find yourself and die to him or her daily.
Find your canvas and paint what’s on your heart.
Like Bob Ross says, "We don't make mistakes, we just make happy accidents."
2021 won't be perfect, but just because it isn't perfect doesn't mean the canvas you paint is any less of a masterpiece.
Start painting. The world and I can’t wait to see your masterpiece unfold.
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