For many people, the start of another year brings hope for new opportunities and personal growth.
We may resolve to quit smoking, lose that extra weight, repay a debt, spend more time with the kids. We want in some way to become better people, to make a fresh start. Our motives may be good, and our desires strong. But when the eggnog disappears from the refrigerator and the holiday decorations come down, often so do our resolutions!
I still recall one New Year's Eve when I was young. I silently resolved to be kinder to my little brother. I knew I'd been impatient and a bully, and I really wanted to be gentler, to be a peacemaker in the family. So as the new year drew closer, I wrote out my goal, and went to bed resolved to make the change.
My resolution lasted - until about 9 the next morning, when somehow he irked me and I clobbered him. I'd like to think I was clobbering a bit more gently - but I doubt my poor brother felt any difference! Where had my resolve gone?
Perhaps you've had experiences when your fondest goals seemed to melt in the heat of stubborn patterns of thinking and acting.
Sometimes, disappointed because they don't progress in fulfilling their resolutions, people give up on them altogether, or put them off until next year. When faced with these kinds of setbacks, how can we persist in striving to master our faults? How can we have a truly new year?
To succeed in reforming our lives even a little, we need a change of heart. One that brings new power to our efforts to act rightly. And it makes sense to seek this change with God's help. Christ Jesus gave his followers a truly wonderful list of spiritual qualities worth attaining. They're called the Beatitudes (see Matt. 5:3-12). He said, for example, "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." And "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God."
Drawing on Jesus' teachings, Mary Baker Eddy - who discovered Christian Science and established this newspaper - referred to this regeneration of thinking and acting as "the new birth": "The new birth is not the work of a moment. It begins with moments, and goes on with years; moments of surrender to God, of childlike trust and joyful adoption of good; moments of self-abnegation, self-consecration, heaven-born hope, and spiritual love" ("Miscellaneous Writings," Pg. 15).
Every time we have an earnest desire to improve our motives and actions - to become kinder, more disciplined, more loving, more principled - we're making a new year's resolution in our hearts. We're responding to the power of God in our consciousness. We're being reborn.
The greatest new year's gift we can receive is the understanding that each of us is actually God's likeness. Each the completely spiritual child of God. The good child of divine Love. We're endowed with an eternal heritage: "dominion" (see Gen. 1:26). Understanding that our nature is unchanging and spiritual, we can begin to prove our dominion over undesirable traits. We can detect and let go of mental misconceptions about ourselves - before we become tempted to act them out in our lives.
Every day of the year, God's law of love supports our efforts to overcome faults and to express greater peace and harmony.
Your initial efforts to meet your goals may be modest: you might begin by refusing to react to other drivers, or bring order to a messy house one room at a time. But even if you start with baby steps, you won't stop walking if you allow God to lead. Pure desires are a kind of prayer, opening the way for God's tender and powerful love to guide you. As you strive to live your resolutions day by day, you'll see and feel divine power giving strength to your resolve.
There's something special about the list of new year's resolutions lying on your desk (or in your heart) right now. Resolving to be better, to bring out more harmony and balance in your life, is a holy desire. And the good news is that God is always here to guide and support you. Armed with the regenerating power of divine Love, you can begin to carry out your resolutions - now, and each "now" of every day.