by Annette Bridges. © 2006. All rights reserved.

The women in my family have a tradition of watching “Gone with the Wind” each year. Perhaps it’s our Georgia roots that impel us to do so. The coming of the “new year” reminds me of a favorite line when Prissy exclaims: “I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ no babies!”

Well, our new year has been born without any help from you and me. Thank goodness! Life keeps moving us onward and forward. The real question is: Now that our new year has arrived, what are we going to do with it?

Last year’s troubles are behind us, with disappointments and failures a fading memory — hopefully. But maybe we feel we didn’t do a good job with our last year, and we worry whether we can do better this year.

Many times in my life I’ve wasted days, and even months, grieved by past mistakes, overcome with regrets and buried in self-condemnation. At such times, even though I welcomed the idea of a “new year” with new beginnings, I seemed paralyzed and unable to walk into this land of promise and possibility.

Looking to Bible friends and their life experiences for insight and wisdom has often provided me with the boost needed. When I think of how to make a fresh start, the first person who comes to mind is the apostle Paul.

His sudden and total transformation from persecutor to preacher and healer has always amazed and encouraged me. He left his past of hatred and prejudice behind him and progressed effortlessly, so it seemed to me, into a life of selfless ministry unto others.

How was he able to put his horrible past quickly behind him and rebuild his life?

His own words offer some clues. Such as: “Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward. … I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. So let’s keep focused on that goal. … ” (The Message Bible, Philippians 3:13-15)

His words speak to the “now” of our thoughts and actions and the need to leave the past behind where it belongs — in the past. His words also don’t expect us to have all the answers for the future. We simply make strides, however slowly, however long it may take.

Perhaps you’re feeling you messed up so badly in the last year that you’re not worthy of a fresh start? Paul didn’t begin by ruminating over his many mistakes and wrongdoings. His new beginning commenced with a fresh view of his spiritual self. That’s a good starting point for each of us — our spiritual identity of innocence and goodness.

More biblical perusing brings the assurance that it is God that renews us. We don’t have to muster up all we need for making a change. God is present with each of His children every moment — guiding us and giving us the strength and courage needed for our endeavors. As we proceed, keeping focused on our goal, as Paul says, we will feel the divine energy enabling us to overcome challenges and making us ready to face a new year.

We need only anticipate better times and acknowledge the presence of divine Love lighting and leading our pathway. We have a new year before us. Let us forge ahead. With forward motion, one step at a time is enough!