An article for the All Souls Weekly, January 1, 2012.
When I think about resolutions for a New Year, I remember words offered by Brother Douglas Brown some years ago at an Ash Wednesday retreat. A monk from Holy Cross Monastery, Douglas had a wonderful way of speaking about spiritual things in earthy and realistic terms. He was talking about Lenten resolutions, those various spiritual disciplines some of us endeavor to take up as we prepare for Easter. He said something to the effect of, “The only time God is interested in our resolutions is when we fail. If we could do it all ourselves, then we’d simply be involved in an exercise in self-improvement. God gets interested when we realize that we need him and ask for help.”
Some people simply don’t bother with resolutions. They’ve given up. Perhaps they’ve become discouraged after having failed in the past. Making a plan or a promise (they feel) simply sets them up for failure, and then they end up feeling worse in the end. But if we were to make resolutions with a good dose of humility thrown in, we might begin to understand that failure can be a part of the process. Failure can lead to growth and the movement forward, especially if it causes us to fall upon God’s help again and again. If we ask for help, it’s amazing what God can send our way: energy, hope, faith, new resources in friends, in teachers or advisors, and in community.
A prayer for the New Year from the Church of England’s Common Worship seems like a good one as we ask for God’s help with whatever might be our hopes or resolutions:
O God, by whose command the order of time runs its course: forgive our impatience, perfect our faith and, while we wait for the fulfillment of your promises, grant us to have a good hope because of your word; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Especially in this New Year, may God accept our prayers and resolutions and surround us with all that encourages us and helps us to be faithful.