Clean Slates are a Messy Business

With New Year’s coming up next week, lots of us are probably thinking of Resolutions. Something about the New Year empowers us, makes us see the future full of possibilities, like the mistakes we’ve made can be erased and we get a clean slate.

The good news is that we can have a clean slate anytime we want – we don’t need to wait for January 1. But the not-so-good news is that cleans slates are a messy business.

Over the last decade or so, we have had several friends decide the lives they were leading just weren’t satisfying. So they threw aside their friends, their wives/husbands and kids, and “started over”. Meanwhile, their spouses and children were left devastated, their friends left wondering “why?”

“I want a fresh start.” Our society allows for that answer. At times, they encourage it. Like a computer whose hard drive is wiped, we want to delete our past and move forward into a new future. Leaving the past behind, especially when that past is messy, is SO much easier than cleaning up the messes we have made.

In our 17+ years of marriage, Dave and I have had plenty of times when we’ve gotten so frustrated, so “messy,” that I’ve thought, “I’m done! This is too hard.” It seems easier to just “restart.” But we are both committed to Christ and committed to marriage, so we have cleaned up those messes we have made – through seeking forgiveness, seeking counsel, talking through hurts and regrets. And our marriage is stronger because of it.

Maybe there are major mistakes in your past – mistakes you want to bury and get as far away from as possible. Please hear me when I say those mistakes can be forgiven, but they MUST be dealt with. If they are too big for you to handle on your own, talk to a pastor or a counselor.

Maybe you have a spouse or parent who has hurt you repeatedly. You’re done. Tired of dealing with the same issues. While you can’t change someone else, you can make sure you are responding to the situation in a way that honors God. You can make sure that you are doing all you can to live at peace with that person. That means forgiving them, seeking to restore broken relationships. No one benefits from grudges held.

There are times you need to walk away from a person who refuses to change. But there is never a time when we are permitted to live in anger toward someone. Christians are told to love our enemies, to be kind to those who mistreat us, to forgive seventy times seven. That is, I know, incredibly difficult. But God knows it will make us stronger, make our relationships stronger, our churches and families stronger.

Start the New Year seeking a clean slate – but with an eraser in hand and not a trash can. Clean up those messes, restore what was broken. Don’t set aside your past – redeem it.

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