A new year is a time of new beginnings, a time to make a fresh start with a clean slate. Have you ever made a New Year’s resolution and failed to keep it? I have. It can be so frustrating: with good intentions, you resolve to exercise regularly, eat more healthily, or keep in touch with loved ones weekly, and then in the press of life your resolution is forgotten. Sometimes, resolutions become a burden, and we become deflated or defeated; in our minds, we beat ourselves up for our failure to keep our resolutions.
New Year’s resolutions in our spiritual lives can fall into the same pattern – and often do. We want to follow Jesus. We want to live out the Marks of Discipleship – daily prayer, reading the Bible, worshipping weekly, serving our neighbors, relating and being accountable to our brothers and sisters in Christ, and giving generously to those in need – and we resolve to do so. And yet, we often fall short, and feel vaguely guilty or ashamed of it.
I think there are two problems with New Year’s resolutions. First, we underestimate how difficult it is to change our habits. Someone has determined that it takes doing something 52 times before it becomes a habit. If we are really going to change our habits, we need to take the time to plan what we are going to do, when we are going to do it, how we are going to remember to do it, and have some encouragement to keep doing it.
The second problem with resolutions is that we let them become a law that weighs us down rather than a good, even enjoyable thing we ‘get’ to do. When I take the time to pray and read the Bible, for example, my day is better, more free spirited, more joy-filled, less stressful. It’s not so much something I have to do but something I get to do – it’s a privilege and a joy.
In 2012, I am doing two different Bible reading and studying plans, and I invite you to join me, not as a burden but an opportunity. I am reading (and praying) through the Bible, with one reading from the Old Testament, and one from the New Testament, each day. We are also reading through the Gospel of John in worship at Good Shepherd. We’ll have both reading plans in the newsletter each month, as well as linked at our website.
If you get behind: don’t sweat it. Just pick up on the current day, and keep going. Every day is a new beginning. You may decide just to read the New Testament passage if it’s too overwhelming to read it all; or just spend time meditating on the week’s John passage. I will ‘blog’ about it as often as I can on my website www.lemonholm.com but I am not going to resolve to write every day . Again, have a blessed 2012!