The case for resolutions
I’d like to spend more time in nature. I’d like to write letters more often, to reconnect with old friends and to invest in newer friendships. Maybe I’ll live with more intentionality, spend my time on social media more productively, start a Bible study. I should probably recommit to playing the flute and find a pool and deep clean on Saturdays. And, I don’t know, drink more water? That sounds good.
To be honest, I’m not even that big a fan of New Year’s Resolutions. Come January 1st, the gyms are packed and the kale shelves are empty. But a month or two later? The reverse is true. It seems like an awful lot of pressure, this one designated day that holds such promise, that is a recognized occasion for a fresh start. For it only comes around once each year. Now, I’m sure there are some people over there who stick to their daily work out and faithfully eat their kale salads for lunch the whole year through. But I’m afraid to say I’m not one of those people.
While I may get caught up in the excitement and zealously make a generous list of New Year’s Resolutions (however vague and ambitious and dare I say unattainable?), I don’t sweat it if they fall through. For I don’t count that first day of January as my sole shot at yearly transformation. In fact, it’s one of many, many occasions of transformation, promise, and newness.
For starters, there’s the liturgical calendar of the Church, marked by those natural seasons I happily anticipate as shifts in my life, both spiritually and otherwise. Advent and Lent, particularly, are spans of time that hold great potential. Then there’s the immeasurable gift of the sacrament of confession, granting me a clean soul and a fresh start each time I depart the darkened stall. As I still follow the academic year in my job, there’s the newness that September brings (bouquets of newly-sharpened pencils, anyone?) and May’s pensive ending. Of course, there are the seasons of nature that remind us distinctly of the passing of time and can spur inward reflection. And as one who travels often, I can’t tell you how much I ponder the things of life—where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going (and I don’t mean literally)—on buses, trains, and planes.
But you know my favorite time of all to form new resolves? It’s those sleepy last minutes of the day, each day, my covers having claimed me with their powerful allure but my mind doggedly set on reflection. Truly, the power of habit amazes me. For over a year I’ve ended my day with the will to reflect and a journal page to oblige. Not unlike Ignatius’ examen, my nightly habit involves a sweep of the day’s goings-on, and a pause to assess the following: What is one triumph of the day? What is one way I’ve failed? What do I hope for tomorrow? Triumph, failure, hope. It’s in those small steps that I really see my life taking shape, that I’m better able (with God’s grace) to redirect my steps to the right path, that I notice my flaws and give thanks for my strengths. It’s much more manageable, if you ask me.
So, maybe tomorrow will be a day of newness for you. Maybe this will be a year of intense change. Maybe you will take on an ambitious goal, or goals, to somehow better yourself or the world around you. And that surely is cause for great hopefulness. But I have a hope of my own: that you would feel the freedom to fail, that you would know this is not your only chance to begin again, and that you would experience most deeply that His mercies are new each morning.