I’ve been looking forward to the coming year like that cartoon rabbit looks forward to Trix cereal.
Last year on the New Year, my friends and I all ate 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight. Believe it or not, we weren’t crazy and alcohol was not involved. Someone in our group was Spanish and said it was their custom to eat 12 grapes before the clock stops chiming at midnight. Beginning the year with a mouthful of grapes is supposed to lead to a year of prosperity.
Yeah, not so much. This past year has probably been the most difficult year of my life. I am typically a Pollyanna-on-Tigger-juice kind of girl and can handle disappointments with alacrity and grace (or at least I try to). However, this past year, a slew of prickly events made me feel like someone slipped some Eeyore tonic into my Trix-less cereal bowl. Fortunately, there is nothing like the light of a new year in the face of a dark one.
We love the New Year. We love to make noise, throw confetti, drink champagne and kiss each other at midnight. We love to sing “Auld Lang Syne” out of tune. We love to watch the 1070-pound Big Apple fall in Times Square. It’s fun to think of interesting reasons why we engage in such unusual customs. I always especially wondered what the Big Apple descent fascination was about. Does it have something to do with Isaac Newton getting hit on the head with that apple? Is it related to the Biblical “fall” and the whole Eve-serpent-apple thing? To me it always looked like a big sparkly golf ball that was blown up by a machine made by the Szalinskis (Honey I Blew Up the Sports Equipment perhaps?).
Despite all the fun stuff and contemplation about the fun stuff that occurs on the New Year, it is also a time for reflection:
The New Year is a time for looking over the past year and assessing our thoughts, words and behaviors. Did we grow in our spiritual journey? What did we accomplish? Did we engage in activities that were glorifying to God? Did we create more good ripples or bad ripples? These questions pertain not only to the big issues but also the little ones. Did we tear off our mattress tags or did we leave it well enough alone? I’m personally ashamed to say that I made popcorn and put the “this side up” face down.
Shedding the Old
The New Year is a time for shedding that old, scraggily skin. It makes me think of soft-shelled crabs. They are viewed as a delicacy because shortly after a crab sheds its skin, it begins rebuilding its shell. Therefore, crabs have to be caught right after they’ve molted to serve them up as soft-shells. The New Year is a great opportunity to do the same—to shed bad habits, regrets, bitterness, anger, hurt, confusion and all those feelings that negatively freckle our skin. Even Paul was up on the shedding: “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead” (Philippians 3:13, TNIV).
Making Things New
The New Year is a time for making things new—for resolving to change and rebuild a stronger skin. It would be nice if they sold that stuff at the store, but alas, it is ironically something we’ve got to build on the inside. Despite the annoying weight-loss campaigns, the most important resolution is to improve our relationship with our Lord because He’s the one that will enact the change in us: “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:5, TNIV).
As we all know, however, resolutions often fizzle faster than a wicked witch in a typhoon. Fortunately, there are resolution de-fizzling tips.
First, we need to make realistic goals. Now while some goals are sweet and all, it is just not realistic to meditate and pray six hours a day, read all the red-colored lines in the Bible daily, help every elderly person across the street, make every baby smile, save world hunger, end homelessness, foster peaceful relations between all nations and stop global warming while raising a perfect family with Ivy-league bound children and a well-trained terrier, succeeding vocationally and making enough money in the stock market to help the orphans in Romania. With those unlikely aspirations, we are only bound to get frustrated and quit altogether. A realistic goal, in contrast, would be to have a daily 20-minute quiet time with the Lord.
Second, we need to have definable goals that we can monitor. If your plan is to have a quiet time daily, then mark aside 20 minutes in your planner for each day of the week. In fact, it would be even better to have a calendar on your refrigerator showing your goals and progress so it is visible and so your loved ones can help keep you accountable. And when you have completed each daily goal, you can cross them out, which is a super-fantastic feeling. Moreover, rewarding yourself for meeting your goals is also effective in keeping yourself aligned. If you complete all your quiet times for a week, for instance, you can treat yourself to an ice cream flavor of your choice or some Trix cereal perhaps.
While all those tips are effective, there is really only one thing you need to stick to your resolutions: Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed (Proverbs 16:3). That’s really all folks.