Like many tech-reluctant consumers, I now buy almost all my books online (through Amazon, specifically), grudgingly acknowledging that the ease of rapid home delivery exceeds the heady joys of browsing through a bricks-and-mortar bookstore.
I order volumes on military history, commentaries on Scripture, and collections of favorite short stories with none of the high spirits that once accompanied my monthly forays to the overcrowded and understaffed bookstores of my adolescence. The choices now are many, and the decisions merely mechanical: this title; by this author; without the 2nd edition foreword; in the paperback edition; at a cost that doesn’t twinge my Yankee conscience.
There is a mystery—and for believers, even a kind of holiness—in the unwritten page.
But there is one portion of a physical bookstore that I suspect may never satisfactorily be replaced, even when the Amazon drones are someday flying through our neighborhoods to drop off packages by 3:00 p.m. Strategically positioned near the cashiers’ counters in each bricks-and-mortar store are rows of “empty” books—blank journals, diaries, and sketchbooks—that call to us like Sirens singing to Odysseus. They promise us what no other volume in the “Book Barn” ever can—the power of shaping our reality; of telling our own truth instead of reading truths from others; of leaving some terse testimony of the fact that we were here—even as the drones invade the side streets.
There is a mystery—and for believers, even a kind of holiness—in the unwritten page. We know too well the sordid facts from 2017 that could, if they proved interesting enough, become the fodder for unflattering biographies. We know that anything like candor would quickly show our smallness and our pettiness, our preference for gossip and “fake news” (whoever is defining it). We know that, unless remedied by grace, our stories would too soon be heavily discounted on the bargain table at the back.
But there is now an empty book in front of us, with softly stated light-blue lines on which the story of a new year may be written. And all that’s good and holy in our lives—all the deep deposit of God’s mercy that has changed and rearranged our story—calls out to us to start again, begin anew. The most hopeful person on the planet may well be the man or woman, the boy or girl, who holds a blank book on which the gold embossing reads “The Story of 2018.”
Once we have wisely fought off the temptation to fill the first unwritten page with “New Year’s resolutions,” a quieter and more persistent voice advises us to fill that page with better questions than we asked ourselves last year.
Will I be truthful—at least to God, then to myself—about my sins, my brokenness, my pride?
Will I confess my need of grace, acknowledging how empty are my promises?
Will I seek answers in the one volume that speaks God’s timeless truth to me, interpreted by the Holy Spirit who prompted it?
Will I respond to prompts to pray—not once or twice—but on each day, and on each page?
Will I invite the counsel of my godly friends to shape me, help me more than I have done before?
Will I extend the grace Christ offers me to the graceless and the angry?
Will I become an agent of His wholeness to those whose names will fill the story of my new year?
The candid record of unmet resolutions and pounds regained by February advises us to choose our questions rather than give our answers at the threshold of a year. We cannot—should not—promise better performance for 2018, for promises not powered by grace are simply “ropes of sand.”1
But on that as yet unwritten page inaugurating a new year there is an indelible watermark from Him who finally writes the truest story of our lives: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isa. 41:10, NKJV).2
1 Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1956), p. 47.
2 Bible texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.