The New Year: Looking Behind and Looking Forward

by Nancy Freeman (photo by Deanna Langle)

It is a new year, an opportunity for reflection, a time both to look behind and to gaze forward – to see what we might like to change in our lives. Each January, there is extolling of what one should do, how one should be, what a good life should look like. Magazine covers emphasize the virtue of organization, with pages full of strategies to organize time and possessions. Or, weight loss. Now there’s a perennial favorite. Not only do we have to contend with magazine articles but TV commercials and the internet, all telling us to lose weight and get healthy.   

For years I refused to make new year’s resolutions. Most people fail to keep their resolutions, anyway, and I didn’t want to be one of those people. I like to think of myself as different, unique, so instead, I wrote goals. Only, as each January would turn into February, I would find myself joining the ranks of those who wouldn’t follow-through – and it didn’t matter what I called my proposed life changes. So much for being different.

Last year I decided to be intentional and really focus on change. I attributed this motivational shift to the fact that I had a heart procedure scheduled in early January. Nothing like doctors working on your heart to get you serious about life! The procedure went well, and I recovered quickly. At the end of January, grateful and motivated, I found an obnoxiously florescent yellow 3X5 notecard and filled the card with short, attainable daily and weekly goals. I centered these goals around my health and well-being. In addition, I put down several major household tasks (hello, messy basement) to accomplish by July.  I was sure the color of the card would draw my attention!

I’m pleased to report that I integrated most of the daily and weekly goals into my routine and, overall, I’m healthier and happier. Many nights, I go to bed earlier than I used to, and I exercise more regularly. The basement is a thing of beauty–mostly–my having cleaned and scoured it during the summer. Only, now as I consider 2023, I now realize I included nothing last year regarding spirituality. Nothing. While my 3X5 was covered in writing, I still could have included God, but it never entered my mind. Confession is good for the soul.   

As I review my 2022 goals and look ahead to my 2023 notecard, I want to focus on my relationship with God. I might include spirituality reading, prayer, meditation and scripture reading such as Lectio Divina, and any number of activities that will deepen my spiritual growth. I accomplished so much in 2022, just think what might happen by including God! I’ll be unstoppable, not just happier and healthier, but kinder and gentler. If I ground my goals in God’s love and grace, all manner of good things will flow from that, for me individually and for everyone I encounter.  

What does a new year mean to you? Do you make resolutions or set goals? How would you like your life to be different in the new year? How is God part of your plans for 2023?

To inspire and guide you, here is a New Year’s Day prayer from the New Zealand Prayer Book:  

Eternal God, 

To whom a thousand years are no more than a moment;

renew us in your Holy Spirit, 

so that we may serve you with courage

while we have life and breath; 

through the grace of Jesus your Son.

God of time and eternity, 

as we enter this new year

day by day

open us to your new age.

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