Everyone experiences new things. By nature of who we are and the world in which we live, no one lives a completely sedentary life. From new jobs to new cars, from getting married to buying a house, from having kids to moving across town, we all encounter newness. This is especially true at this time of year, when college freshman move onto campus for the first time and neighborhoods suddenly become more quiet as children head back to school during the day.
While many new experiences are joyful occasions, not all are. Sometimes new things are sad, uncomfortable, or even depressing. A new job, for instance, could indicate a step forward in a person’s career; it could also represent a changing career field that is now fraught with uncertainty. Likewise, a woman who has been married for fifty years experiences many new things after the death of her husband, few of which will bring her any joy.
Even when an experience is new and exciting, it can be accompanied by feelings of anxiety and loss. My first semester of college, for example, was a wonderful time, full of adventure, excitement, and opportunity. But it was still difficult to transition from the comfortability of home and the routines of high school that I knew so well. Yet even in their discomfort, new things can stretch us, helping us grow and learn not only about them but also about ourselves.
One thing I have learned through my experience of new schools, new jobs, new homes, and new life stages is the importance of starting new things well. Below are some suggestions to that end.
Begin with Prayer. Begin each day—or each moment, if necessary—in prayer to God. He will bring you grounding and peace amidst what may be a tumultuous time. Consistently communing with the Almighty through prayer, Scripture, and devotional reflection will help you begin each day with the most important part of your journey in mind.
Journal. Write down what you are thinking and experiencing. Journaling functions both as a means of processing what is going on in the moment and as a way to remember those experiences later on. Personally, some of the most valuable time I spent in England turned out to be the journaling I did about what I did and what I learned there.
Form Positive Habits. Use the new to foster positive habits. This can be general lifestyle changes—eating better, exercising more, not spending as much time on your phone—or changes specific to your new situation—for instance, beginning each work week with an evaluation of your weekly, monthly, and yearly goals. One of the families at our church, for example, uses the new school year as a time to take a close look at their calendar and family goals,adjusting things as necessary. This is also the thinking behind New Year’s Resolutions which, of course, only work when they are followed through on.
Push Yourself. New experiences may be hard. But they may also be the perfect opportunity to test your limits. Muscle only builds when you push it to the limit and stretch the bounds of what you can do. Do not use the newness of things as an excuse to take things easy—aim high and capitalize on the new as an opportunity to become even better.
Learn What You Can. By definition, the new is something we have not experienced before, something beyond our realm of experience. Use such opportunities to learn. If you are in a new city, go exploring. If you have a new job, see what new skills or competencies you can acquire. Do not simply try to conform the new to the old but learn what the new has to teach you.
Newness can be tough. But as we adapt to our new environments and situations, do not forget all the good that can result. As Sons and Daughters of the King, after all, we belong to the one who will says that He will make “all things new” (Rev 21:5). Whatever our anxieties and insecurities, we can celebrate new things in the light of the One who made all things and will make all things new.
Image courtesy of Susanne Nilsson.