For many years, by the end of January, I'd already broken all the New Year's resolutions I had made and had even forgotten what they were. The year that had started with such hopes to learn a new language, travel to some place I hadn't been, or clean out the attic already was back into its old routine, stale with the air of defeat.
And it would be more than 11 months before I'd have a chance to renew my resolve - without much hope that the New Year would turn out any differently.
Some of the general malaise of midwinter seems fueled partly by a sense that nothing ever really changes, least of all ourselves. But one year, something shifted for me. I decided that it really didn't matter if one Tuesday evening was on one calendar year and Wednesday morning was on another. My resolutions didn't need to be tied to time. I knew I wanted to grow, but I knew I needed more to get me going than my own good intentions and a datebook. I needed the spark of divine intention.
A Jewish proverb observes: "Every blade of grass has an angel bending over it saying, 'Grow, grow.' " It's an acknowledgment that true growth in the universe is really the province of an entirely spiritual, eternal power. To grow is both God's invitation and loving command.
So I began to examine my own list for self-improvement. And then I decided to compare it to what might be on God's list for me to do. And I thought of Jesus' words of surrender to a higher purpose: "Not my will, but thine, be done" (Luke 22:42). This is where I wanted to start my year of growth: a resolution tied to a spiritual goal that would carry me forward indefinitely.
That year it stayed pretty simple and open-ended. I felt it was time to become more involved in my local church community. No one else knew I had made this resolution, but within a few months, I found I was elected to my first official position in the church. That led to other positions and other opportunities both within my congregation and in the larger community. At the same time, I found a new enthusiasm and energy for the mission of my church. With some surprise, I found it becoming a more and more rewarding part of my life.
As I looked over other things that needed improvement the following year, I realized it was time to heal a breach in my family that had deepened and increased over time. Again, I felt I was being compelled to grow spiritually to accomplish that resolution. I needed real growth in forgiveness, humility, and especially love.
Through many months, I prayed to feel God's perfect love working with me to accomplish this reuniting. And in stages, that relationship strengthened and improved until the old cold and hurt were left behind in a past that no longer mattered.
Instead of dreading the resolution letdown of January, it's become an opportunity to dedicate and rededicate myself to growing closer to God.
As I've seen my spiritually motivated resolutions fulfilled and expanded, I've realized I don't have to wait until Jan. 1 to add to my list. Any time an impulse to change and grow seizes me, I put that resolution right on my spiritual agenda and ask God to guide me. And I feel that divine message being whispered over me: Grow! Grow!
As a result, I've even gotten that attic cleaned.
patient of man's procrastination, affords him fresh opportunities every hour.
Mary Baker Eddy
(founder of the Monitor)