Nothing says “new” like opening a can of fresh Play-Doh.
As soon as I peel off that plastic top, I breathe in that familiar childhood smell. I turn it upside down to release a perfect cylinder of bright yellow or blue dough. It still has the ridged edges from the factory. Its possibilities are endless: this inanimate blob holds whatever my mind can imagine—a super-sized snake or a herd of colorful dinosaurs. Anything is possible.
The New Year can feel like that smell—untouched and full of promise. Putting up the holiday decorations, moving furniture back into place, cleaning out the frig usually brings on this detoxed and energized attitude. I have a “do-over” on a clean house, on a clear calendar, and on a healthy diet. I will have a second chance, a new start.
Except the new wears off fast. Everything from leftovers to work meetings pile up. The ugly hurt I had buried deep under holiday frenzy and fake smiles just resurfaced. My bank account doesn’t seem so full of potential after all my fa-la-la-la-ing. And just as my Play-Doh creations never match the photos on the box, my January is starting to look more like the old year instead of the new one I thought I was starting.
But, Play-Doh wasn’t made to be perfect. It was made to be used, and our life is dough in God’s hands as we yield to His pressing and purposes. He actually is the only One who can make something useful out of our imperfect ball of dough. But now, O LORD, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter and all we are the work of Your hand (Isaiah 64:8).
It’s tough to be Play-Doh. The kneading and smoothing-out takes a toll on us as God uses heartache, disappointments, losses, and mistakes to make us into display pieces of His glory. Yet, our imperfect vessel holds the beauty of God’s truth and power. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us (2 Corinthians 4:7).
But, what can He make out of me? As my children’s Play-Doh is ruined with dog hair, grit, and the past season’s glitter, my dough feels permanently dirty, too. With all that mess rolled up in my life, my life seems unusable.
In Isaiah 43:19, God promises to “make all things new,” even if it means creating something out of nothing. “I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” And, let’s face it; our lives can leave us with a terrain incapable of growing anything green and beautiful. But just like He wasn’t limited by a virgin’s womb, He isn’t limited by our used cans of Play-Doh, gritty with sin and suffering.
And despite our condition, God lets us catch that new Play-Doh smell as we live with Him—when His Spirit overwhelms us by pointing out His Word; when He shows us the beauty of His creation; and when He reminds us how all things are heading towards Perfection. But, this is only a brief scent, one that makes me wish for something better, something bigger, something beyond mere potential.
Thankfully, God dreams bigger than I do. He is not content with a vessel with cracks. He has a fireworks-worthy celebration waiting. He is building a Perfect Place where it rings Happy New Year every day, never to be marred by things as irritating as spilled milk and as heartbreaking as a child’s funeral.
Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…. There will be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Then He who sat on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new (Revelation 21:1-5).
In that place we will wake up and work and worship every day full of potential, full of perfection, and never marred. It will be a true New Year’s Day, forever.
About the Author:
Susan Tyner in on staff at Christ Presbyterian Church in Oxford, MS, and enjoys serving as the Mid-South Regional Advisor on the PCA’s Women’s Ministry Team as well as an Advisor to the RUF Permanent Committee. Susan, and her husband Lee, have five children. Stirring a pot of soup, dancing in her exercise class, and reading a book are her favorite things to do between the laundry and the dishes.