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“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” That was my introduction to motivational slogans, at the age of 19. It was a revelation: Hey! Whatever bad habits I’ve collected, whatever sins I’d slipped into, there was always a tomorrow. There was always a new start, a new resolution, a new opportunity to rise up from the ashes of defeat. Gotta learn how to fall before you learn to fly, right? Every journey begins with a single step. You never fail until you stop trying! The best way to get something done is to begin. Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.
And sometimes you just fritter away another day binge-watching or gaming or eating too much or exercising too little. But there’s always tomorrow … until, as Professor Harold Hill says in The Music Man: “You pile up enough tomorrows, and you’ll find you’ve collected a lot of empty yesterdays.”
Pile up enough motivational posters, and you can start a pretty good bonfire.
But how about this for motivation: “He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent” (Colossians 1:18b). Not, He is at the beginning, or fires the starting gun or springs off the block first. “The beginning” is a person, not an inspirational word or a first step. It’s word and action both, the “be” in “Let there be” (light, sky, ground, water, sun and moon, life). He is the beginning tumbles out in a stream of superlatives describing Christ, so brief and simple it’s easy to overlook. But wait—stop, go back, and consider what the statement really says:
I still like beginnings, but after all these years I’m wise to them. They can be slippery and insincere.
He is the beginning. Every pronoun has an antecedent. This one has several: image, firstborn, head (of the body), fullness, preeminence, beloved Son. He occupies the shining center of “all things,” the direct opposite of a black hole. Rather than negation, He radiates affirmation, all creation circling and rejoicing in Him.
He is the beginning. Present tense. The gate of time stands open, and He occupies the threshold as humanity pours through on its way to eternity, blessed or condemned. He is the door, but also the deed; the object of all those prepositions (by, through, in) and, at the same time, the active agent. He does it. He is it, yesterday and forever, and always today.
He is the beginning. I used to love beginnings—like at the start of the school year, sharpening pencils and plotting a schedule for getting all my homework done. On New Year’s Day, savoring that last piece of Christmas fudge before starting the diet-and-exercise program. In the hospital with a new baby, making promises no one can keep. You know what happens, though: The pencils get stubby and chewed-upon, resolutions don’t hold up even for a week, and babies grow into themselves, striding off in directions impossible to imagine, much less predict.
I still like beginnings, but after all these years I’m wise to them. They can be slippery and insincere, for as long as I know another one is going to come around, flubbing this one is not the end of the world. Until school is finally over. Until the nest is finally empty. Until the last New Year’s Day finally arrives and, though I may have no clue or premonition, it’s the end of the world for me.
But not for Him. By entering the womb as a tiny seed uniting with a human egg, He became our beginning. He’s good for His promises and knows where He’s going—in fact, He’s already there, talking about us. Interceding for us. Beginning with us, day after day.
Big changes are ahead for me this year, and perhaps for you as well. Big changes are ahead for our country in this already-chaotic election year. I can confidently predict that we’ll hear bad news and good news, puzzling news and smack-ourselves-on-the-forehead news. From heaven’s perspective, however, 2020 is already old news. The real news is perpetually good, provided we know the Omega and the Alpha.