Tired of Resolutions? Learn last year’s lessons whilst embracing the new
As we start the new year, Corin Pilling, who heads up Livability’s church partnerships team, reflects on the opportunity the new year gives to both reviewing and planning ahead.
A very Happy New Year to all of you!
If you’re like me, I suspect the annual question ‘Have you made any resolutions?’ often takes you by surprise. By this point in the midwinter, everything in the natural world has become dormant, yet those of us in the Western world have barely begun our wind- down. Encouraged by maxims such as ‘New Year, New Start’ we start planning the year ahead before our bodies are ready. The celebrations designed to help get us through this period have ended and the steep cliff edge we call the month of January is in front of us.
If we look to the Celtic take on advent, we are offered this time in our calendar as a period of active waiting. This reflective time began in mid-November, and ended with epiphany on 6th January. The invitation to wait for the Celts was evident in the stillness of the landscape which everybody would feel deeply connected to. The world was dormant; activity would cease, too.
Instead, more often we miss this deeper waiting over the Christmas period. As soon as the pumpkins have gone, the tinsel is up. Christmas truly kicks in around Black Friday and is often a series of mini- parties which build up to the big one. The very opposite of hibernation. It’s no wonder that many of us feel out of sorts by the end of January.
Slowing down might offer a chance to listen to each other, and to hear the voice of the Spirit. Choosing to reflect in such a way is often pulling against the cultural tide as well as our own full schedules. It might also help us to align to the rhythms of our world in this winter period. So, organise to take some time out to reflect.
Take time to reflect
The Examen is a reflective practice and is a method you can use to reflect on the past year. This practice is one of spiritual review and discernment, seeking to determine the initiative of God in our lives. The Examen offers a fundamental question; at what point did I feel close to God, and at what point furthest away? This simple process can offer a way of nurturing daily discernment. Applying the questions of the Examen to a longer period, such as a year review, can offer great insights. The following questions, which apply these principles to such a review, were beautifully phrased by Covenant Church in Austin, Texas.
- Look back – Look over the events of the past year. Reflect on these questions:
- Where have I been?
- What significant changes have come my way?
- When have I been most stressed, exhausted, or discouraged?
- When have I felt loved and given love away?
- Look through – Identify any patterns, connections, or themes that have characterized the past year.
- If you can, summarize the past year in a sentence or two.
- What unhealthy patterns or habits do you notice? (i.e. patterns of stress, anger, or anxiety that lead you away from love).
- Look forward – Where do you sense God leading you forward?
- What do you sense your soul needs in this season of your life?
- What are some invitations that God might have for you?
- What are your hopes and dreams for this coming year?
- What habits do you need to create or maintain in the next 6 months?
- Look around – What community support do you need in this season of your life?
- Who is going to help pull this year off?
- To whom do you need to be reconciled?
- Who are the people you need to invite to walk alongside you?
Why not simply try this with your small group, or a friend? Meet somewhere you have space, can take your time, and eat together so you slow down to the pace the exercise needs.
This exercise can work with a variety of people and different generations. Markers of solidarity like this become radical acts in an individualistic society. Choosing to participate in communities of people unlike us is important. Simple, shared ways to live can help underpin this and deepen our connections with one another, and offer us a deep sense of the gift we have in each other.
Whatever this year brings for you and your community, may you know rich blessings and peace as you move into it.