New Year’s Resolutions are funny little things. We joke about them at office parties, making promises to ourselves to stop doing whatever bad habit in which we are currently partaking or commit to beginning something new and different in the year to come that would be beneficial.
It’s a great concept. In theory. We continually need to make changes to our lives, our thoughts, our actions, our finances, our health…our everything. Yes, our everything. Because no one is perfect and nothing about us has escaped that annoying little thing called sin – which isn’t all that little if we’re honest with ourselves – there’s no area that couldn’t use a little improvement, a slight tweaking and perhaps even some major, drastic change.
Nonetheless, when it comes to New Year’s Resolutions and other “things-will-be-different” proclamations, it’s rare that they last more than a day or two, if that long. We quickly stumble and fall, sometimes tripping over our own two feet, back into whatever rhythm of life we previously practiced.
So I don’t do them. I just don’t. I tried once. And it didn’t go well.
Maybe – just maybe – I’m the only person on the planet who lacks discipline, gets distracted, forgets and wanders off track when approaching a new year with new goals and new ideas and new change. But I’m probably not. If I were, gyms wouldn’t be annoyingly crowded in January and empty by February. So when conversations at Christmas parties turn toward said resolutions, I find myself not chiming in to add my own to the mix. It’s just not my thing.
But then I was introduced to a new thing. An idea that’s not quite a resolution but does involve intentionality. A thought that is not setting up a goal loaded with unspoken expectations of failure and is instead wrapped in prayer and held with open arms and no definitions of where the road will lead you. A practice that involves the same concept of change and improvement as a stereotypical resolution but eliminates the guilt by leaving it open-ended.
And it’s just one word.
One little word. An idea. A theme.
Peace and patience was the first time I heard about this. (OK, that’s three words, but it works.) A friend mentioned casually that his theme for 2013 was to practice peace and patience. It had dawned on him around Thanksgiving of 2012 that he was not very patient, and when the lack of patience got the best of him, he was not very peaceful. So in 2013, he wanted to see what would happen if he focused on peace and patience. There were no goals, pre-determined check marks or opportunities to fail, but rather an open-handed approach to wondering what God could teach him and how his faith could grow if he explored peace and patience.
This “word-of-the-year” concept was talked about among friends and I soon discovered that many folks I knew were considering the idea, prayerfully approaching the God who created the universe and asking him to reveal what he where they could grow and what they might learn if they were to explore one particular theme for a year. The beauty of it is that there are no rules, no guidelines, no opportunities to fail; it’s simply agreeing to go on an adventure and being willing to take risks as you follow the One who knows where the path ahead will lead. And what an adventure it will be…