It’s almost New Years.
I don’t know of any other worldwide event that holds more hope for fresh starts and also, less staying power.
Don’t get me wrong, I get excited like the rest of them. I make a short list of necessary life upgrades, grab drinks with friends, watch the ball drop and then break for the exits as the PDA bomb explodes.
And I’ll be the first to admit… There is just something to that dawn of January 1st. Something significant. It makes us feel like destiny is just waiting at the doorstep. Like the world is our oyster. A place where anything and everything is possible.
New beginnings are precious to us because they promise our lives will get prettier. What works will remain and what doesn’t will be left behind. We shed old skins for new ones.
Maybe that’s why we love it so much.
But… it’s also a time of reflection.
We reflect on how we lived the last 365. How many mornings we awoke feeling a sense of purpose. How many times we passed open hands of the homeless on the sidewalk. How often we called up our grandmas just to let them know they’re appreciated. The number of nights we were moved to gratitude for the sparkling stars staring down at us. How we cringe when we count our favorite TV shows compared to our favorite books. The night we put side by side the loved ones we have and those we wished we did and remember which ones we spent more time trying to please.
We bury all of the things we wish hadn’t happened in the last 365. 2012 becomes a time capsule, one we hope no one reopens. Just like all the years before.
So we make pages of plans to prevent the perils of yesteryear. We take the surfacey stuff like learning new hobbies, losing the baby weight, smoking less and so on. Then we make bold inner goals, like giving more of our time to people and building stronger bonds with those that are different. We blueprint the year to come.
And… After a few weeks of realizing that the New Year is just like the old, we stop believing. Reality sets in. No, we actually cannot fly.
Yet, hope can be a stubborn thing…
Like the seed beneath the snow, on New Years Eve- hope breaks through our habits. It messes things up. It reminds us that the scriptures we sift through insist upon the theme of renewal. It claims that every morning we are reborn, we start over, we smell the grace God promises with the dawn, and hope becomes the breath we breathe.
It is the story of Job and Jonah. We read it in the anguish of Lamentations and the promises of Isaiah. Hope is the hidden thread that makes our faith weather our skepticism.
We know too well how imperfect we are and what fools we’d be to even try. We know the difference between things that make us unique and others that make our lives worse. We know that change cannot come through a turn on the calendar, but rather by thoughtful reflection and a turn of the heart.
And we celebrate our weaknesses, warts and all, because Christ treasures them. If the gospels teach us anything, it’s that Jesus is really attracted to those coming at life with two left feet. He smiles and sighs as we huff and puff and check down the list of changes to be done by such and such deadline. He is brokenhearted with our stress, but overjoyed when we finally collapse and toss it all down before him. More than anything, he’s happy that, at least, we still hang on to hope.
While your resolutions probably won’t last a full week (sorry), remember the hope you held before the clock hit twelve. Bottle it up. As with all things in life, 2013 may be a mixed bag for you. Your back may hit the wall. Shit happens.
Take the tingling feeling of promise and let yourself off the hook. This is one of those occasions where you can have your cake and eat it too. Sure, maybe you’ll learn to love broccoli, but may be not! Perhaps you’ll quit smoking, but you might not be ready yet.
And on January 2nd or 3rd as you wince at that list of lofty goals, be sure to be grateful that, at least, you still know how to hope.