“Well, the year’s over. And I’ve already decided on my New Year’s resolution.”
It was Christmas Eve, shortly before the candlelight worship service. I was standing in the sanctuary.
I stared back at Tom, St. Giles’ very own usher-extraordinaire, who wore a smile that beamed from ear to ear. Truth be told, this is Tom’s usual smile. It’s one of many things I’ve come to appreciate about him.
“Oh, yeah?” I replied. “And what’s that?”
“It’s the same as last year’s!” Tom jubilantly proclaimed.
I paused for a moment. Possibly for dramatic effect, or maybe still in a state of shock that, minutes before the excitement and sheer stress of a Christmas Eve service – my first Christmas Eve service as an ordained pastor, might I add – that anyone could possibly be thinking about New Year’s resolutions anyway.
I mean, after all…
We hadn’t yet uttered the familiar beginning of Luke’s Christmas account. “In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered.” (Luke 2:1)
We hadn’t yet lit the Christ candle.
We hadn’t yet sung Silent Night in the glow of candlelight.
For that matter, we hadn’t even put out the cookies and milk for Santa, or excitedly opened gifts from loved ones, or eaten Christmas brunch.
In other words, we hadn’t yet had a Merry Christmas. How on earth could we be planning for the new year? This is simply not something my ordered and checklist-making mind can understand.
Finally, I shook the Christmas Eve jitters and responded to Tom. “And what was last year’s resolution?”
“Not to make any more New Year’s resolutions.”
Tom is nothing if not a jokester.
I asked him how his resolution had gone in 2014, pontificating about how surely if he was making the same resolution, he must’ve had some level of success with it the first time around. He responded that he’d been quite successful with his resolution and as a result didn’t feel a single ounce of regret about good intentions being swept under the rug.
“I think you’re onto something, Tom,” I replied. “This sounds like the kind of New Year’s resolution even I can keep.”
Ah, yes. New Year’s resolutions. I’ve never been any good at keeping them.
It’s the time of year when gyms and fitness centers everywhere roll out the red carpet with special deals and trial periods for the once-a-year gym attendee. The time of year when gym members have to fight over treadmills because of all the well-intentioned folks dressed in spotless, never-before-worn workout attire. Those whose spotty attendance at the gym would likely rival the infamous “C&E” crowd who visit their church twice a year – on Christmas and Easter. At least, I assume this must be what gyms are like this time of year. I’ve never actually stepped foot in one at all, let alone in January.
What can I say… I’m not good with New Year’s resolutions.
In sixth grade, my New Year’s resolution was to do 100 crunches per day. After all, I’ve got to maintain these six-pack abs somehow! Then January 2nd rolled around, and there was an all-day James Bond marathon on cable TV.
“Ehh…” I thought to myself. “I’ll pick back up tomorrow. After all, James Bond marathons don’t happen every day.”
So… I got a day behind. A few days behind, perhaps. One thing led to another, and... by my calculations, I’m currently 584,600 crunches behind.
But who’s counting, really?
Hold that thought as I step away from the computer to do some crunches.
I’m now only 584,599 behind. And, on a related note, I need a glass of water.
In any event, I’ve never been much for New Year’s resolutions. I prefer to let each day and each decision speak for itself, and for each experience to take me to places and results and dreams I never could have imagined.
It’s hard to know what I resolve myself to do in a year when I have trouble resolving what I want to eat for breakfast. That’s a true story, too. Ask Megan sometime how long I stare in the cereal cabinet in the morning. It’s not a pretty picture.
So I just don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I take it morning by morning.
“Every new morning is a new beginning of our life,” wrote Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the famed early 20th century reformed theologian. “Every day is a completed whole.”
In other words, every day is a blank slate. Every day holds potential. Every day holds possibility. Every day holds excitement and experiences and dreams we can’t even imagine.
I hadn’t made a resolution to enroll in seminary coursework in 2010. Actually, truth be told, I hadn’t even made a conscious decision to apply to UPSem the morning I applied. It just sort of… happened. Imagine Megan’s surprise at dinner that evening: “so… I applied to seminary today.”
For someone who’s such a planner – seriously… I’m a Type A personality with a capital T – I’m sometimes surprised at the ways I allow myself to be guided by the events of the day.
But Bonhoeffer says it in a way I can understand.
“Every new morning is a new beginning of our life.”
In full disclosure, I found that quote on the first page of a daily devotional of Bonhoeffer’s writings I’m using in my spiritual life this year… that I decided to use early this morning…
I’m going to follow Tom’s advice and make my New Year’s resolution to not make any resolutions.
I can’t wrap my head around resolutions. For some reason, they seem to be hard to attain.
But I know why they exist. I know why people make resolutions. It’s a new year. It’s a clean slate. It’s a fresh start. Turning the page of the calendar to a new year of possibilities… a new year of potential… a new year of experiences and excitement and dreams…
Still, I can’t wrap my head around New Year’s resolutions.
But I can wrap my head around goals. I'm not even exactly sure what the difference is between resolutions and goals. But, to me, there's a difference. Maybe the word resolution reminds me of the formal "be it resolved" language in official proclamations... an overture that shall happen. A resolution seems final. "Goal" seems to describe more of a process.
Goals pushed me to become a teacher despite my fear. Goals pushed me to go to seminary despite my anxiety. Goals pushed me to do a unit of clinical pastoral education despite my trepidation. Goals pushed me to make a budget despite… okay… well that one I just did because it’s a good thing to do.
2015. It’s a new year. A clean slate. A fresh page. What will it hold for me professionally? What will it hold for me personally?
Of course, it’s impossible to answer that question. Only God knows what the future holds and what my role will be in it.
Not only that, I’m taking it day by day. I want to see each day as “a completed whole,” no matter how romanticized and clichéd that may sound and no matter how much better it sounded when Bonhoeffer said it.
No resolutions this year. But goals I can handle. What goals will I seek to write on the clean slate and new page that is the year 2015?
Without further ado, my goals for the year.
The obsessive-compulsive component of my personality really wants a tenth goal to round out this list with an even number. But I’m making it a goal to be less obsessive-compulsive this year and more easy-going and flexible.
And yes, I know that this now officially makes ten goals.
2014 brought with it many things. Graduation from seminary. Starting full-time ministry. Moving to a new state. Buying our first home. Becoming ordained. Wow!
I’m excited to see what 2015 brings.
What are your New Year’s resolutions? What’s your track record on keeping resolutions? Do you have any book recommendations? What are your recommendations for things to do in Greenville and South Carolina?
I'm a husband, father, news junkie, theatre lover, enneagram enthusiast, bi advocate, amateur foodie, wannabe barista, and an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA).
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