Perhaps it happens every year and I just haven’t been noticing, but doesn’t it seem like the phrase “New Year, New You!” has been everywhere in recent weeks?
A quick google search show the phrase to be in heavy, diverse use, promoting everything from dairy-free diets to exercise plans you can do while sitting on the couch. Feng shui to fashion makeovers. Beauty tricks to belly dancing lessons.
What really caught my attention, though, was its appearance as the top headline on a tennis magazine I read:
New Year, New You – Tennis!
Let’s hit the pause button for a minute.
Think about the people you know. Coworkers you mingle with in the hallways, high school acquaintances that put their whole lives on Facebook, fellow parents in the drop-off/pick-up line, friends with whom you can’t seem to ever have a “quick” lunch.
Now, not in a spirit of arrogance or superiority, but in the interest of empathy, think about the struggles they face. Think about the topics they bring up a little too often, the words or names they can’t say without pausing first, the wounds and soft spots from the past, and the promises they make to themselves that they’ve made a hundred times before.
Now, let’s push play again. Do you think tennis lessons are going to do it?
You are surrounded by people who face very real challenges. Relationship messes that never seem to resolve, self-image issues that go back to adolescence (if not further), and doubts about talent, purpose, meaning, significance, value, security and a dozen other sleep-stealing questions.
They’ve had these struggles so long, they’ve tried so many things, they’ve been disappointed so frequently, that they teeter on the edge of giving up entirely. And someone out there is telling them to get their hopes up one more time? For what? Calf stretches that can be done in a La-Z-Boy?!!
This is the culture–hyperbole on the one hand, hopelessness on the other–into which we speak the Gospel.
We can’t afford to waste anyone’s emotions on more hype. So, why the Gospel? What’s different? What makes it worth our singular attention?
Listen to the language of God as recorded by one of the prophets of Israel and notice the difference between the Gospel and the products of the pitchmen:
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” Ezekiel 36:26-27.
In a world of hype there is hope, for there is a God who wants to change us from the inside-out. This is not one more offer to sculpt your abs, bring out your eyes, or any such superficial thing. This is an offer to abide in you, the core of you, the heart and spirit from which everything in your life flows and upon which your every hope relies.
The ads and commercials seem to scream so loud. The Gospel, in contrast, seems so intimate. God whispers, “Your life can be better, you know. It would be my joy to make it so. But you’ll need to stop with the makeovers. Let’s start with your heart.”
New Year, new you? I kinda doubt it. I mean, I’ve heard it before.
New Heart, new you? Now that’s an offer.