Updated: Mar 25, 2020
We’re all gonna die. We don’t get much say over how or when.
But we do get to decide how we’re gonna live.
So, do it. Decide. Is this the life you want to live? Is this the person you want to love? Is this the best you can be? Can you be stronger? Kinder? More compassionate? Decide Breathe in. Breathe out and decide.”
Meredith Grey – 'Grey's Anatomy'
New years seem to supply the perfect opportunity for personal renaissance. There’s something about the feeling of the rollover of the last two numbers on the end of the 20** which summons us into a purposeful sense that we can begin again. A new start is possible! It promises a chance for us to recalibrate our life for the future despite how tough the previous year might have been – and for some, last year was very tough.
I love new years. I love the way they beckon encouragingly to us to think of different ways to live, to eat, to save or spend our money. Health and strength and order and fun hold so much promise in the first weeks of the year, and often, rightly so. Sometimes, at the beginning of a new year or decade, the pledges we make to ourselves and others find ways to come to fruition. Marriages can be healed, children can make a new start, a different kind of job is viable, study becomes an option, we can find ways to abandon bad habits or save money or help other people… None of those things are really contingent on the new year, except insofar as it can give us a line of delineation from which to measure our progress.
Such resolutions are the genesis of the ways we can change in order to make a stronger future. Determining to shake off survival techniques that haven’t done us any favours, and make mature decisions to embrace a different way of living, is always the avenue of personal progress. As citizens of a planet which was created to nurture us all, these benchmark resolutions to change how we live are often the precursor to bring good not only to ourselves, but to our families, and to the other inhabitants of our world.
Lots of people despise New Year’s resolutions but used rightly, they can be a lever to enable change for the better, to improve our way of living, rather than as empty promises we made to ourselves that we will never keep.
Making a decision to be different this year – less irritable, less reactionary, more forgiving, more gracious – will make all the difference to your world. Deciding to contribute to the wellbeing of the planet by being more careful about your use of plastics, more plant-based in your diet, more mindful and considerate about your spending so that a consumer-driven society loses one more devotee – all these choices make the world a better place.
Making the decision to befriend someone who is completely different from you, learning who they are and how they live, will make the world a better place. In a world where policies and politics, corporations and economies vie with each other to dictate our thinking and therefore, our lives, choose to swim upstream. When you read how the destruction of the environment is good for the economy, look past that to the world your children and their children will inherit. You can’t eat money. Big bank accounts don’t provide the oxygen vital for our breath. Find ways to go against the populist lemming-like thinking. Stand on the right side of history so that when your children’s children look back, they will know you had courage to make a stand for what is right. That will be a far greater inheritance for them than dollars and cents.
When you read that a certain people group are alien to you and therefore to be feared, choose to remember that every person in this world was created in the image of God, and nothing can erase that. Find ways to treat each person the way Jesus did. Don’t look to the Church to provide you with understanding of what that looks like. Some churches have lost their way and have a greater affinity with Caesar than with Christ which is why the only people Jesus rebuked were the religious, and His own disciples.
We default so easily toward the rules and regulations which masquerade as Christianity. Unless we make deliberate decisions to look consistently at how Jesus acted toward people, we will always find ways to put God in a box and do all we can to keep Him there. Read your Bible. See how Jesus related with everyone, especially those who were marginalised and rejected. He related to them without condemnation but with a purity of love which we still, after all these centuries, have not been able to match. So often our hatred and fear of others stems directly from our own internal struggles, our feelings of alienation and isolation, of fear and rejection.
To misquote Jesus’ words: If you don’t love yourself, God help your neighbour.
One thing the years on this earth have shown me as a Christ follower, is that I will accept or reject people in direct proportion to the way in which I accept or reject myself. True story. And it’s as true for each of us as it is for me. It doesn’t have to be 1st January to make a new resolution. You can make it any time - how about now?
Can you love yourself more? If you can, you’ll love your neighbour more too.
Can you put aside your fears of not having enough to enable you to give to someone else?
Can you research the issues the world is facing now and not default to group-think because checking out the facts is too scary? Can you find ways to make a stand for right, despite the disapproval of your people-group?
Can you remember that each of us will be answerable to God for the way we lived our very short lives on this beautiful, troubled planet. Our people group won’t be there when we give account. It’s between Him and me. Him and you.
Do you love yourself enough to love your neighbour enough to find ways to love your planet and those Image Bearers of God who populate it?
Go on. Make a resolution and begin to work on the changes it will require. God will help you. I know that, because He helps me with this every day.