Happy New Year! Now What?

As the challenges of 2020 roll over into the new year, how can teachers approach the new year with confidence and joy and reflect that to their students and each other?”

We like new beginnings and fresh starts.  I often feel as a teacher that I am so blessed that I get a re-do every year; a chance to reflect, grow, and try again.

And yet, as followers of Jesus, we do not need to wait for the turning of another page on the calendar to have that sense of renewal. The author of Lamentations reminds us “His mercies are new every morning.” Each day when your feet hit the floor, you have a fresh start, a new day with new opportunities to partner with the Creator of the Universe to make a positive impact on those he has placed around you. He has a purpose for you and for your life. And we get to live that purpose…today! “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, to do good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10.

We can proclaim with the Psalmist in Psalm 118, “This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.”  And we can have this joy and peace regardless of what is going on in the world around us.

None of this craziness in the world is new to God. He is not surprised by any of it. He has been through plagues and pandemics; he has been through political unrest. He still reigns!  And because He is still in control you and I can have a profound sense of peace and we can share that peace that passes our understanding with our colleagues, students, and their families.

But the world, and our sinful flesh will try to distract us. It will try to fill us with fear, dread, anxiousness, and hopelessness. The father of doubt and deception wants us to feel overwhelmed and filled with despair.

We must listen for the whisper of God’s promises as much as we listen to the shouting of humanity.

We must learn to daily recalibrate our compass. To keep our internal compass focused on our True North, on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

Perhaps you have the ability to spend a few minutes in the Word each morning recalibrating on what is important. Perhaps you read three verses from the Bible while you drink your first cup of morning coffee and then ponder them while you brush your teeth. We need to be reminded of the eternal promise that has been kept for us.

A solid night of sleep is one of the best ways to manage stress. It is when we re-set our stress baseline. Instead of watching the news or scrolling for 15 minutes prior to falling asleep, what if we read a Psalm from the Bible? Turn off the world and open the Word to put our minds and hearts at ease.

Paul tells us in Galatians 5 that the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. This is what the world is longing for! This is what our students and colleagues are seeking. You and I have it. As we stay connected to the Word, the Holy Spirit will produce this fruit within our lives. On our own, we are not able to find peace and comfort nor can we model it for others. But because of what Jesus has done for us, it is a free gift that he wants us to enjoy. This is also the eternal gift you can give your students each day as we model this joy our Great Comforter bestows.

Dr. Rhoda Wolle is the Dean of Student Success at Wisconsin Lutheran College

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