Happy New Year! Have you made your resolutions yet?
I look at New Year’s Resolutions with mixed emotions. On one hand, the idea of looking at ourselves honestly and deciding to make a change for the better can be good. If we are too impatient, or too judgmental then a resolution to slow down, to give the other person the benefit of the doubt is a good thing. But these resolutions don’t just arise at the new year. Christians are challenged to make these sorts of changes all the time and other religions also help their believers grow as persons. The New Year, then, can be one convenient time, among many, to look at ourselves and decide how we want to be or what we want to do in the coming year. And this is very positive: it says we have hope for our future; that we have faith that we can change; that we are willing to try.
The key to making resolutions is to make them realistically, with prayer and reflection or by conversation with your pastor or with a trusted friend. In the Episcopal and Catholic churches we have Spiritual Directors with whom we meet to talk, pray with, and be accountable to in our quest to draw closer to God. In these meetings we sometimes are faced with a part of ourselves we know are not pleasing to God or to others. And in that realization we have a resolution in the making. If the beginning of a new year is approaching then the holiday can help us get excited about our new path.
So decisions to change, if they are changes which help us become spiritually and emotionally and physically healthier, are good. And even though we may not keep them forever we are helped by even tiny changes, I believe. Every time we go down a new path we are affirming life and the future. How can that be a bad thing? But, there is another side of resolving to change.
In America we are not supposed to be fat, old, wrinkled, bald, ugly, or sick. We get hundreds of messages a day through advertising, TV shows, and books which tell us we’d better change to be acceptable. There are even books by good Christian people which say that God doesn’t like fat people so we’d better lose weight! These are the changes those New Year’s Resolutions are supposed to address. If we make resolutions based on what others think we should be like then we are not as wise as we hope to be as seniors. It is very hard to fight popular culture and accept ourselves with wrinkles, bad hair, canes, and everything else that accompanies us down the road. But we have years of experience that says there is more to life than looks, and mobility, and control, and money.
This winter of 2014 let’s look at ourselves and each other with love, hope, and patience and make resolutions to do more of the important things: pray, laugh with friends, love, and live with the wisdom
This article was written by Annette Cook, Director of Senior Adult Ministries
Christ Church Episcopal/Greenville, SC