Friday, December 30, 2011

Old Rooms, New Paint

It’s almost 2012. 

Time to make new resolutions—except I gave up on doing those a long time ago.

This past week, as I was painting the interior of a huge house, I reflected on this traditional but futile exercise. What is it about the New Year that brings such hope of transformation in some habit or lifestyle? It’s as if a hidden room reveals itself on January 1 filled with treasures of old dreams and new motivations. Like Harry Potter’s Room of Requirement, all I have to do is stand in front of it, think hard about what I need to do for the coming year and poof! I’m standing inside the room where all the needed resources and motivations to change are available to me.

Unfortunately, like the students of Harry’s special school of wizardry, I still have to work hard to learn new habits and make the desired changes. After a while, it gets too hard to even think about what I need in order to get in. The room disappears for another January 1.

Perhaps what’s needed is not the special Room of Requirement (the title may reveal the possible problem), but just a fresh perspective of the old rooms.

There’s something euphoric about putting fresh paint on the walls of a well-worn room. All of a sudden everything seems new. There’s a different feel to the room. Painting a room ends up including a process of cleaning, cobweb removal and repairing. Hidden flaws are exposed. Concealed creatures, usually dead, are uncovered. Dusty surfaces are revealed. Once the room is cleaned and painted, it is transformed into something new.

But it’s not really new. The room is still the same old room. It just feels new and vibrant with life.

I wonder if this is what’s really behind our need for January 1. I wonder if my resolutions disappear by February because I view the need for transformation as being a change from bad to good instead of old to new. I can’t sustain being good when I never feel good enough. But I can live into the new since the old always has an opportunity to become new, whether through refreshment or replacement.

As I painted and reflected, I couldn’t help but imagine what hope for the new year would look like if I concentrated on refreshing old rooms instead of disappearing into the Room of Requirement. Instead of forcing a new lifestyle or habit change through resolutions, I imagined cleaning and refreshing old rooms through new thought patterns and values. I imagined my fears as creatures needing to be removed, lies as flaws to be exposed and repaired, and the deep truths of my faith as furniture to be dusted off and revealed in all its beauty and strength.

What I want for the New Year is to feel new and more alive than the year before. Through the years of following Christ, I have found that newness and aliveness comes through deep transformation of old rooms in my life. What’s freeing to me is that this transformation still preserves the real me. I don’t have to make a resolution that’s unrealistic (for example, “I’m going to train for a marathon like my other 50+ year old friends”). Instead I can identify thought patterns that keep me from putting on my sweats and going out the door for a two-mile walk around the block.

What I want for 2012 is to be available for continued remodeling of the rooms of my soul, to be a more refreshed and life-filled “house” to share with others:

By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established;
Through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.
                                                                                    (Proverbs 24:3-4)

I want to wake up on January 1, 2012 with anticipation of newness.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, she is a new creature;
The old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
                                                             (2 Corinthians 5:17)

I want the same for you – HAPPY NEW YEAR!


  1. Nice blog Harriet! Did not know we shared a love for writing!!

  2. I loved your reflections on entering a new year, Harriet! Your "refreshing the old rooms" metaphor worked for me (I hate the idea of resolutions, too) and gave me a new perspective on welcoming a new year. Thank you!

  3. Thanks, Cornelia! That means a lot to me coming from a professional writer to a newbie! I'm not sure I'm at the "love" stage yet. But the more I write, the more I'm liking it - it feels good to explore my voice.

    And thanks to you too, Jody! Your responses are so encouraging to me, as usual!

  4. This makes me think of my favorite song by Shawn Groves, called "Welcome Home." The Lord has used the theme of my heart and life being an old house He's coming in to restore ever since I was a new believer. It's such a precious song to my soul. :-) It "found me" my first summer as a believer when I was wrestling through and confronting a lot of yuck in my heart. That summer, I had several moments where I was desperate to know if God could see all the mess I felt stuck in and whether He cared. And on several different occasions that song would come on the radio at just the right moment. In the past few years I hadn't heard the song at all. Then I realized that I'm a grown up and can download it onto my phone. I can seek out His presence when I'm feeling low rather than waiting for Him to come to me. :-)

    Hopefully the link will work. :-)

  5. Great song, Becca Sue! Thanks for sharing it and your story!