What a difference we hope one evening will make. The sun sets on 31st December and when it has risen the next morning a new year has begun. All that was of the year past has gone and the New Year is here. New possibilities, new hopes, new ideas and dreams. Making New Year’s resolutions takes the New Year seriously as a new start. In making New Year’s resolutions, many people try to make possible their dreams, ideas and hopes. With the morning of the first of January comes not only a new year but for many of us a hope of a new Me. The trouble is, more years than not, we quickly realise it might be a new year but it’s the same old me.
There’s really good things about all the hope that is around at the New Year but there’s also stuff that is not so good. New Year is an opportunity to do some thinking, a an opportunity to take stock of our lives.
I have to confess that I have a bit of New Year’s Resolution-phobia. My worst year was when I made ten. They ranged from exercising every day to eating less. By the end of January I’d broken most of them, by the end of February I’d forgotten what they were!
In those first few days of January we realise what unrealistic we are, as well as how undisciplined we can be at keeping our resolve. The trouble then is that you have to cope with feelings of failure and guilt before the year’s even got off the starting blocks so before you’ve remembered to write the right year at the top of all your cheques you’ve forgotten your New Year’s resolutions.
The month of January gets its name from the Roman god Janus. He is depicted as a two-faced man. One face looks towards the past and the other towards the future. As we think about New Year’s resolutions we can perhaps, look in three different directions: facing yesterday, facing today and facing tomorrow.
The Israelites were no strangers to looking back. They were constantly challenged to remember their heritage and God’s dealings with them. Moses once encouraged them with these words:
“Be careful and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your hearts as long as you live” (Deut 4 v 9).
It’s important to face the year that has just closed. We need to face it honestly, not with our rose-coloured specs. You might have had a difficult year so it might be painful – the last year might have been one you don’t particularly want to remember. On the other hand, it might have been so good you’re now worried that it can’t continue. Whatever the last year has held, spend a bit of time remembering. It might help to do this, perhaps looking through your calendar or diary or with photos.
As much as we might want this year to be a completely new start, it doesn’t start in a vacuum, it follows what’s been. And what’s been has brought us to where we are. Lots of people’s resolutions are flawed from the beginning because they don’t look backwards first. Think about the past year. What can we be thankful for, what is there to be pleased about, what was hard, what did we learn, what habits do we want to get out of, what habits are good ones to keep doing? One wise saint said in the Bible, “If we don’t learn lessons from what we’ve seen and heard, then it’s like looking in a mirror and then forgetting what you saw”. The past is important – we can learn a lot. In fact, if we don’t we’ll probably just find things repeating themselves. But after saying all that, the past isn’t where we’re to live now. We reflect and review the past in order to resolve to continue on.
God doesn’t intend us to live in the past. Looking back at His goodness is intended to root us firmly in the rich soil of faith, which provides the environment in which we can grow with Him into new things.
Paul talked about this when he wrote: “Forgetting what is behind, and straining toward what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3 v 13)
It’s no good going into the New Year just looking over your shoulder; imagine what you might walk into! We need to try and focus on where we are going.
So where are you aiming? Which direction are you facing in? In facing the New Year we are facing some new possibilities and opportunities. In making resolutions, think perhaps about where and what you want to be this time next year – what habits, what do you want to change?
Remembering what you have learnt from the year gone and full of hope for what might be, what are you aiming at this year? It might be that you want to know your friends better by this time next year, or to have grown closer with God, your family, to be healthier, or fitter. Whatever, think about tomorrow, the kind of person you want to be, the kind of friend, mother, father, sister, brother, employer, employee, friend, neighbour.
Now, in the light of the long-term perspective, how can you get there? So, if your aim is to be healthier, how can you do it? What can you realistically do? If you want to develop relationships then why not resolve to spend an hour more a week with those concerned doing things they want to do. If you want to grow in your relationship with God, don’t resolve to spend an hour every day praying, why not start with ten minutes
Now I’m not saying don’t stretch yourself, but let’s be realistic, but also, optimistic.
So I encourage you this New Year to face yesterday and all the last year was, to face tomorrow and all that you want to do and to be in this new year, and to face today, to work out how you’ll get there and then to face those around you and the God who is with you with thanks for this this new year.