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What would I do with a new start? I mean a really "new" start? Not something that looks new because we've vigorously spit-shined something that's old and caressed its finish to a new luster. Not some radical make-over of something that's radically old so that it looks convincingly new. Not a tedious and meticulous restoration that's going to erase the footprints of time and grant something old a few more years of life. I don't mean any of that or anything even remotely close to that.

What I'm asking is, do I really want a new start? If I do, then I'd be terribly wise to seriously consider a few things:

First, A New Future is Not a Face-Lift
The nature of life is such that we plan for the future with the past shaping the nature of our plans. That's just natural. We build for tomorrow on the foundation of the past because the past holds the raw material from which futures are built. The memories, experiences, gains, losses and various lessons of the past are the natural fodder that feeds a future seeking sustenance to foster its growth. The future cannot helped but be shaped, built and fed by the past. However, in all the shaping and building and feeding, the future does not need to 'be' the past.

Our tendency is to take the raw material of the past and recast it into something supposedly new. Whatever we end up with when the recasting's complete often looks strikingly and convincingly new, when in reality it's often nothing more than a creatively altered version of the past. In far too many instances, what we've recast is nothing more than another rendition of the raw material that we started with. Yet, we celebrate these new visions and innovative goals thinking that they are actually new, when they are nothing more than an historical facelift. And then, as part of our New Year's celebration we raise the glass and propose a robust toast to this exciting new future, when in reality we're on a direct U-turn that's taking us right back to where we came from.

Second, a New Future Demands Risk
Sometimes we don't want a new future, even though we think we do. We find the idea of a new future as remarkably tantalizing and a bit electrifying, but we begin to hem and haw when we start realizing the risks involved in developing a new future. When we start counting the costs of building a truly new future, we play a shrewd but misdirected game of 'give and take.' We do that at the point where we begin to realize that the further the future that we've planned is from the past that we're leaving, the greater the risk and higher the cost. Bowing to the fear generated by this reality, we meticulously arrange and rearrange things out of an effort to provide ourselves the most aggressive future with the least cost. Once this shell-game has played itself out to some inevitable conclusion, the future has often been muzzled to the point that it's anemic, hamstrung, and little more than the past in rogue disguise.

As a further response to these fears of ours, we tend to keep one foot firmly planted in the past with the other foot gingerly placed in the future. Somehow, such a posture convinces us that we're daring enough to move forward, and that we can't be herded into some pathetic category populated by those frightened people who we would label as cowards. It's the age-old battle where the need for familiarity and comfort always shows up in force whenever we attempt something unfamiliar and uncomfortable. We desire an exciting future, but the demand for familiar and comfortable tempers our steps to the point that often our steps are little more than stepping in place. As much as we're adverse to it, a real future demands real risk.

Third, a New Future Will Demand Something New
A new future cannot be entirely crafted from old material. Recycling is a great thing. Yet, our past can only be recycled just so much. Everything that we recycle is limited to and by the raw material that makes up whatever it is that we're recycling. We can possess a boundless imagination and couple that imagination with a wildly creative mind. Yet, the raw material that we work with will create limitations because the materials themselves are limited.

If we want a truly new 'new' future, something about it must be new. 'New' implies something that does not possess any of the elements that we already possess. Something must be added that has not been added before. Some place that we have never been must be some place that we're now willing to go. Some direction that we've either adamantly avoided or never thought to consider needs to be considered, mapped out and embarked upon. Some decision that we may have avoided out of the fear that it may rock our world may need to be made and given permission to do exactly that.

Fourth, a New Future Means Grieving What We're Leaving
Leaving something behind is one thing. What we don't consider is the grieving in the leaving. Yet, when we leave something behind it will naturally leave a hole of some sort. Whether that hole be large or small, disorienting or desired, painful or painless, it is the now vacant space that was once occupied by whatever it is that we're leaving. Creating a space creates a measure of discomfort because we're not used to a hole being where something else used to be. On top of that, we're naturally prone to fill empty spaces for the simple fact that they're empty.

Whatever the nature of the hole, we grieve the holes left in our lives. Grieving a loss is accepting the hole. And sometimes the pain of accepting the hole is greater than the pain of the thing that once occupied the hole. In the ensuing emotional trade-off that we find ourselves embroiled in, too often we chose to avoid the pain of the hole by not creating the hole in the first place. Worse yet, in order to avoid the pain we often put back whatever it was that we had removed in the first place. Leaving the past means grieving.

Fifth, a New Future is Not Building a Museum
And then we have this prevailing hoarding tendency. We simply like collecting stuff because it feels like all of this 'stuff' grounds us when our lives are moving so fast that nothing's grounding us. We recognize the need to move on and we understand that we need to leave the past behind as we move on. We're genuinely excited about a truly new future and our excitement grows as we embark on that fresh adventure. But stuff grounds us as we deal with the turbulence that's created as we move on.

So, we want to keep a few mementos. We want to grab a handful of assorted trinkets and knick-knacks to have something to remind us of days gone-by. However, too often keeping a few mementos turns into keeping a whole lot of mementos. Eventually we want a museum. We want to sort and catalog and categorize and organize and stow and store all that stuff. And before we know it, we're doing exactly that. This is not to say that we shouldn't preserve our past as a sacred part of our journey. Indeed, we need to both remember and honor the past. However, when we set about creating museums, the task becomes so monstrous that we end up living in the museum that we've created. When we do that, our future has become about preserving our past. We need to understand that honoring the past is far different than living in it.

A New Future
We are not born into a world of immense and improbable possibilities to be chained to finite possibilities. We have a God who says that the impossible is entirely possible. If we want a really new 'new' start, we'd be wise to realize that the idea of 'what has been will always be' will only 'be' if we choose it to be. And in the oddity of life, we have the power and privilege to decide either way. This New Year, may we choose to forgo historical face-lifts and may we be willing to risk. May we be bold enough to incorporate something entirely new and may we grieve with firm intent. And finally, may we hold the past close to our hearts but may we refuse to build museums around it. May we do all of these things, and in doing so may this New Year be 'new' in an entirely new way.

Copyright © Craig D. Lounsbrough, M.Div., Licensed Professional Counselor
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Author Biography

Craig D. Lounsbrough
Web site: Craig Lounsbrough Professional Counselor
Craig Lounsbrough strives to bring an effective blend of experience, expertise, clarity, concern, and action to the counseling process in order to maximize outcomes and provide genuine healing and wholeness to individuals, marriages, and families.

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