We live in an odd world. As soon as we manage to get through the wonderful madness of Christmas, the first thing on everyone’s mind isn’t rest, or rejoicing in the birth of Christ, or enjoying the quiet of the Christmas season after the day itself.
No; what’s on everyone’s mind is change. This is the year, we all decide, when we will lose weight, manage our finances, start a new hobby, be nicer to our spouses. We’ll buy a self-help book and replace all our old bad habits with new-and-improved better ones. Some of us have even loftier goals: we’ll buy a house, write a book, travel around the world. Making those resolutions is just as much an expected part of New Year’s as are noisemakers at midnight.
Somehow, if we don’t have a list, we feel there’s something wrong with us. And then, when—not “if,” and you know that I’m right—we don’t keep the resolutions we do make, it’s even worse. Instead of there being something wrong with us for not creating unattainable goals, we’ve become a failure for not attaining them. What is wrong with this picture?
I was on that roller-coaster for a lot of years. I listened to everyone asking me what my resolutions were. I duly noted them down, lists and lists of them. Sometimes I made a real effort and even managed to follow them for a few weeks. Invariably I didn’t, and felt that I’d failed miserably at life. My major resolution seemed to be to put it off to the following year. “Next year,” I promised myself, “will be different; next year I’ll really stick to it!”
After a while I started wondering why I kept failing. I pondered that for a very long time, until I finally realized what the problem was: I hadn’t included God in any of my lists. I hadn’t listened to what God was calling me to do—not in the whole new year stretching out in front of me, but right there and right then.
I kept looking ahead, and looking ahead was keeping me from being present in the moment. Keeping your focus on the wonderful person you might become in the coming year—if you can only stick to your resolutions—means you’re not honoring the wonderful person you are right now.
That’s not the way it works. God loves you, fiercely and passionately, right now. In this moment. The way you are. Resolutions or no resolutions.
Once you realize that, once you stop and consider the dazzling breadth and depth of God’s love for you, you realize that making resolutions takes you out of the incredible gift of your life today and puts you into an uncertain future that may or may not happen. Maybe it’s time you stopped forcing yourself, stopped making empty promises to a stranger, stopped living through the expectations of others and instead accepted what God already knows: that you are a wonderful being, a child of God, made in his image.
Does that mean we shouldn’t set goals? Of course it doesn’t; goals can be helpful in shaping our futures—but they need to be kept in perspective. Think not only about all the things you want to accomplish, but about what will draw you closer to God. If we could spend less of New Year’s talking about our resolutions and more of it listening to the voice of God, then our future will absolutely be on the right track, weight loss or no weight loss.
That’s what I’ve found, in any case. I don’t make resolutions. I find time on New Year’s Day to spend in a church, or by the ocean, or even just in my room, alone and in prayer and open to what I might intuit as the whisper of God’s voice. I ask God what I will need for the year ahead, and ask him to grant it to me. I ask how I can live out the Gospel of Christ in the coming year, where he wants me to be, what he wants me to do. The answers don’t come immediately. Sometimes they take the whole year to become clear and meaningful.
But I have patience, because there is no rush. The present is beautiful and powerful. God loves me now, just as he will when this new year is dead and buried. God loves me now.
Think about trying it! Rather than rushing forward in a panic to set resolutions or a list of goals you can start on New Year's Day, forget all that and enter 2019 in a mode of being absolutely present, being absolutely prayerful, and being absolutely positive about how great it's going to be.
by Jeannette de Beauvoir