Wiping the Slate Clean

Mike Starkey

One of my favourite stories is about a family who moved house. The removal company arrived on the morning of the move and asked the family if they wanted everything taken to their new house. And they said: ‘Yes, we need to take everything with us!’

So the removal men put all the furniture in the van. Then all the odds and ends from the kitchen and bedrooms. And then outside items such as bikes and garden equipment.

Finally, the removal men looked around to see if there was anything left. The family’s words were still ringing in their ears: ‘Yes, we need to take everything with us!’ So they collected up all the bits of rubbish and litter lying around in the front garden. And they loaded them into the van as well. And when they arrived at the new house, the removal men duly tipped all the old rubbish out into the new front garden!

It is January, the start of a new year. Now, I know the decision to celebrate our New Year in January is a bit of a historical accident. It dates back to Julius Caesar and his introduction of the new ‘Julian’ calendar, rather than anything intrinsically ‘new starty’ about early January. So the historic roots of our celebrating New Year in January may be arbitrary. But the symbolism around New Year remains powerful. A whole new stretch of unexplored time lies before us, like untrodden snow or a blank sheet of paper.

And that makes it a good moment to pause, and be honest, and ask ourselves: ‘What is the rubbish from last year that I don’t want to carry with me into this new year?’

Of course, some things are easy to leave behind, others are harder. So for me, an important word at the start of a new year is forgiveness. I personally find it helpful to have a little routine at the start of each new year. It involves taking a little time to forgive people any negative things they have done or said to me in the year that’s gone. To do my best to let go of old hurts, leave them behind. Those people may be friends, family, work colleagues and acquaintances, or people with whom we work and minister.

As we move into a new year, it’s good to check we’re not carrying last year’s rubbish with us.

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