Happy New Year’s, friends! We hope this season has been full of joy, fun, rest, snacks, and all the things that make the Holidays special to you and your loved ones. As all of us crack back open our inboxes and unlock our office doors, my prayer for you is that today is a day of excitement and joy, and not guilt or dread as you see if your commitment to working out daily makes it through even the first week of January.
There is a real temptation for New Year’s resolutions to lean towards not self-improvement, but self-loathing. In the posts of people saying that this year they are going to be fitter, more organized, better with money, they’re going eat better, work better, be better, there is an undeniable tone of people looking at themselves and thinking they can just will themselves into being closer to some ideal self they imagine.
Implied in that belief is the one that the reason that they are at their current health status, financial status, spiritual health because they just haven’t tried hard enough.
As though all of us don’t walk around doing the best we can every single day.
I wonder if we could reframe the idea of New Year’s resolutions to be about celebrating all that we already are, and continuing to move towards the things we want, instead of just focusing on where we believe we are falling short.
When the ancient Israelites gathered, they routinely spent time going over the ways that God had been with them, the good things that happened, the places where they had thrived, grown, and seen the goodness of God.
I wonder if before we write any resolutions, we should start by looking over our past year for the things that are worth celebrating. Where has God been faithful? What good things have emerged? Where have we been in line with what the Spirit calls us to? What can we be proud of? What have we done in our work, our family, ourselves that is worthy of a little toast?
A close group of friends and I (all women in ministry) did this practice, and wrote out lists of what we are celebrating from 2023; what we accomplished and are proud of. The lists ranged from quitting toxic jobs, to advocating for their health, to building family relationships, to reading a bunch of books for fun. We found that the practice of creating the list was affirming, but even more so was sharing it with people who wanted to celebrate us.
As people in ministry, we can be resistant to anything that sounds like celebrating ourselves. We strive for humility, and sharing a list of all we’ve accomplished feels unnatural and even somehow rude. And, don’t get me wrong, I have rolled my eyes at plenty of posts from ministry friends who are “praising God for His blessings” because they have the funding for their new building or their program doubled in size. But let me assure you, there are people around you who cannot wait to cheer you on and to affirm the good and faithful work you have done for yourself, your family, and your community.
So take a moment, create the list, and then share it with people who really love you, who will be able to respond to you with authentic joy for your success. Give thanks to God for all of those things. And THEN, from that place, maybe take the moment and consider what you want to move towards in 2024.
This practice has changed how I feel going into this year, and I hope it can provide you with some of the joy it’s provided me over the past few days. And if you don’t have a good group to share your celebrations with, send them to me (firstname.lastname@example.org); I would love to read them and tell you, yes you, that you have been a good and faithful servant, and a beloved child of God. And you will be this year, too.
Happy New Year!