“Tabula rasa.” White or blank slate. I remember that term from my philosophy classes in Ateneo. It was emphasized that in order to learn, we need to wipe our slates clean, to rid ourselves of biases and pre-conceived notions or prejudicial paradigms. In everyday words, open your mind.
Many of us long to start the year with a blank slate, a fresh start, a new beginning. We will be hearing Philippians 3:13 preached in many churches for the next few weeks – “…forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.” But many of us, myself included, find it difficult to forgive ourselves from our failures in the past which we allow to haunt us like the Dickensian Ghost of Christmas Past.
I remember a song we sung in a musical I directed years ago. The chorus goes, “I’m gonna finish the song this time / Don’t have to start it over again / And if I fail, I just pick up the beat again / It isn’t the end…” And further on it goes, “Because I’m… walking in the light and I’m forgiven / walking without fear out in the open…” At least, that’s how I remember the lyrics.
We don’t need to start over again. We can begin where we are and experience God’s healing and grace exactly where we are in our lives. To erase memories of the past, like pressing the delete key in our computers, is to miss out on some of the most important lessons in life. To refuse to look at our broken past is to fail to see some of the most glorious moments of God’s mercy and grace.
What God would like to erase entirely is the guilt and shame of the past. Yes, we have failed, and miserably at that, but listen to Isaiah 1:18. “Come now, let us reason together,’ says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”
Yes, we can have a new beginning. But not by being determined or motivated enough to do better next time. Not by making vows and new year’s resolutions with all the seriousness we could muster. But by resting in God’s love and assurance of forgiveness. He is the God of second chances. And third… and fourth… and so on…
Happy New Year. Happy New Beginnings.