As I reflect on the past year, with enormous help from the media, I'm faced with these questions: Will the new year really be new? Are we going to be in for more of the same with the Coronavirus Pandemic? Will we make any progress in healing the racism, wealth inequality, and political divisions in our nation? What's the difference between December 31 and January 1? Really? Will January 1 be any different from December 31? Why is it we make such a fuss over the changing of the year?
The fact of the matter is that even those among us who are most committed to following COVID protocols will be engaged in some degree of revelry on New Year’s Eve. I suspect even many of the “stay the course” brigade will have a list of resolutions. Our lists might include things like losing weight, getting more exercise, having a healthier diet, doing a better job of recycling, gaining discipline in attending worship and saying our prayers, spending more time with the family, reading more books, wearing a face covering in public, and being a generally all-around-nicer person.
I have friends who are opposed to new year's resolutions. They believe having resolutions only sets one up for failure. That may be so, but then any resolutions, goals, or objectives do the same thing, don't they? Any attempt at change, growth, or progress involves some risk of failure. I happen to like resolutions because I believe it is better to fail at trying to do something worthy than to succeed at doing nothing.
With or without resolutions, I ask again, how will January 1 be any different than December 31 or any other day?
If there is a difference, maybe it is one of perception. The slate is not really going to be wiped clean, but we like to try to see it that way. And, in so doing, perhaps there is at least some extra room for something new to emerge in our consciousness, in our pattern of behavior, or in our way of life. Maybe, just maybe, looking at this particular tomorrow opens up room for something new and different. If that happens, we may understand God's words to the Prophet Isaiah, “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it” (Isa. 43:19)?
So, I'm going make some resolutions. And, I'm going to look at January 1 as a different kind of day and as the start of something new – a transition – and pray with all my might that God will have something to do with it so that it will not just be up to me. When I am forced by circumstances to spend more time alone, I can use that time to open up to God and God’s new thing. Maybe my first step, or yours, will create space for grace to see things through. Let’s do it together!
The Very Rev'd Ron Pogue
St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church