These days I don't make official New Year's Resolutions. There is nothing so paralysing as my own expectations of myself. I like to think of having hopes, dreams, intentions.
But if I'm honest, there's always a giant To Do List in my head and at the beginning of the year, after Christmas is over and there is a sense of starting - yes, it does gain more weight. Something in the mentality of the season, together with the usual break from the ordinary in late December, means that I return home with a mind unusually geared up for action.
Some of the things on the To Do List are rather trivial and hardly worthy of a New Year's Resolution (NYR), such as 'must clean out that drawer'. Other hopes/dreams/intentions are rather more profound: 'I would like to be more courageous/wise/disciplined'. All, of course, are personal in some degree, because they are within my sphere of influence. 'Achieve world peace' would be rather unobtainable since I am not the only person on earth. However, I can think about how I interact with family and friends. I think about what I choose to say or not say. When I choose to stand up, when I choose to sit down.
As I noted in the last edition of our church magazine, I rather like the idea of prayers for the year rather than resolutions. And certainly, it gives a different emphasis. 'Dear Lord, I would like more courage/wisdom/discipline this year,' has a degree of co-operation involved, no longer a lonely pursuit but a conscious decision to ask for help. Or as the wise man once said in a rowing boat - you can row and pray at the same time. The two are complimentary.
So, although wary of making NYRs, I do have a gentle bundle of intentions. Of hopes. Of prayers. And the word 'New' carries a certain sense of possibility. I went through a stage a couple of years ago when I pondered the nature of potential and worried that left on the shelf too long, covered in the dust of years, it shrivels into nothing.
Such a thought did not hold in the long term, since it doesn't fit with my worldview. I believe in a God who redeems, a God who is constantly taking things off the shelf and transforming them into something beautiful. The potential you left behind may take a different shape now, but with a bit of imagination, who knows what it will be? Even if it's been left there for years.
You may just need a bigger duster.
Of course, pondering the nature of newness, I remind myself that 'his mercies are new every morning', and I certainly don't have to wait until January 1st to consider how great is the faithfulness of YHWH, the great I-AM, always was, always is, always will be.