New Year, New Minds

Anna Marsh

Welcome to 2021. Can we all breathe a collective sigh of relief and gratitude that God sustained us through 2020? As we enter a new year, the reality we face is that most of our circumstances remain the same. We still grieve losses suffered and long for nearness with friends and family. We hope for the day when we can again feel freedom in gatherings and conversations. We are inundated with information, responsibilities, and opinions to filter and prioritize.

Even in the midst of these hard things, we cling to the truth that true peace and joy is not circumstantial! As believers we are to stand apart from the world in our response to adversity. We are urged by Paul in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect”. Although the year 2021 may feel strikingly similar to 2020 at first glance, we have the opportunity now more than ever to renew our minds.

The verse is very clear that we are to “be transformed,” indicating miraculous work of God that are far outside our control. He alone is the One who transforms, for His purpose and glory. However, I would also argue this is not a passive event. In the verse prior (Romans 12:1), Paul appeals to the Romans to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” So, what is our role in the renewal of the mind? As a ministry, as parents, as Christ-followers, we are called to action in this very moment. Below are some practical possibilities for renewing the mind:

Be still.

For the goal-crushers among us, this may be an opportunity to embrace your dependence on God. No amount of productivity will satisfy. Slow down, notice what is driving your busyness, and take that to the Lord.

Practice centering prayer.

This grounding technique emphasizes interior silence. Find a quiet place. Choose a short line of Scripture, prayer, or even a single word to be your focus. Slowly repeat it to the Lord.

Keep a gratitude journal.

This can be a mental, video-recorded or written list. Prioritizing the discipline of gratitude is empirically proven to cultivate joy. Choosing gratitude is vital to continue approaching our various roles and acts of service with genuine openness and contentment. Gratitude is a choice, and one that always yields good fruit.

Establish boundaries.

Whether social media, news reports, bedtime, taxing relationships, or something else – recognize your limits and respect them. We are fallible humans. To remain fully present caring for children and other loved ones, we must acknowledge our end so that we can be renewed by God to show up again.

Replace what you remove.

Unhealthy habits often develop and tend to persist because they are in some way, at least in the short-term, rewarding. When removed we notice its absence and a hole is left in our lifestyle. How can you be intentional with this empty space? Where you once scrolled on your phone before bed or had an ice cream night cap, might you fill it with reading Scripture, poetry, or trying a new snack? Instead of watching the second or third Netflix show, what if you went on a walk or tried an online yoga class? Rhonda Wright shared a helpful perspective on physical activity in “A Season to ‘Step’ It Up." The list could be endless. What would make space to quiet the noise and allow God to renew your mind?

Now, I challenge you to examine this list and consider: What is missing? What would you add? These ideas are to get the proverbial ball rolling, but you can employ self-awareness here to determine what speaks to you. Be reminded, this is not a new list of resolutions to add to the queue. This is an opportunity to receive the transforming work of God. This year 2021 can be one marked by joy, peace and freedom.