Another holiday custom we might as well play: New Year’s Resolutions. A story in the Philadelphia Inquirer recounts some good ones:
"I'm swearing off e-mail on the weekends," said Matt Kinservik. "And absolutely no work on Sundays." . . .
[Mara] Gorman, a freelance writer, is presenting herself with an equally daunting challenge. "I'm going to say no less often to my kids and more often to everyone else." . . .
Carlos Mejia, a 31-year-old graduate student at the University of Iowa, plans to treat himself more gently next year. "I'm going to be more careful not to get injuries," . . . .
Tiffany Wise can list a dozen things she wants to do more of or less of next year, but she has consolidated her resolution. "I'm going to read the Bible more." The 30-year-old administrator at the Criminal Justice Center, who has dimples deep as canyons and eyes bright as stars, said that spending more time studying Scripture ought to do the trick. "If I do that, all the others will come into play." . . .
We will all agree that mere exertions of will power are generally futile, that we usually don’t keep our resolutions, that we mustn’t think we can save or even improve ourselves by our own efforts, that this is all law, etc. Still, I don’t think that rules out minor changes in habits or resolving or at least trying to do something that is, in fact, within our powers. Maybe the key is to move away from the ascetic self-improvement paradigm and consider resolutions that would increase the enjoyment, the meaning, and the satisfaction in our lives.
For example, Mr. Kinservik above who plans on swearing off e-mail on the weekends and to stop working on Sundays. Many of us tend to be way too busy. We don’t have to be Sabbatarian legalists, parsing what constitutes work or not, in order to make a point of just shutting down on Sunday, taking it as a sign of the Gospel (resting in Christ rather than working to please God), relaxing, doing what we want, and taking it easy. Who wouldn’t want to have a mini-vacation every week?Or the woman in the story who put it so well, that she wants to say no to other people more and to her children less. She is probably like a lot of us, always agreeing to do stuff and consequently getting overcommitted and over-busy. She tries to be a good parent, being a firm disciplinarian, but because she is always saying “yes” to other people, she isn’t able to spend as much time with them as she wants to. All it will take for her resolution to succeed is a little courage and assertiveness to say “no” to things she doesn’t want to do anyway. And lightening up a little with her kids, being a little more generous and spending more time with them, which will also benefit them more than giving them a lot of “no” rules as a substitute for her active presence in their lives. All of which she wants to do anyway.
As for the Bible reading resolution. . . .I just realized that I kept at least one of my New Year’s resolutions from last year. I started doing the daily readings in the Treasury of Daily Prayer (a Psalm, Old Testament reading, New Testament reading, classic theology reading, hymn verse, prayer). I am still doing it. Not out of ascetic self-discipline but because I find it so rewarding. (Shout out to fellow Treasury pilgrims: Haven’t the readings from Isaiah been amazing?)
So do you have any New Year’s resolutions?