Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Resolutions or New Year's Renewal?

I have been thinking about New Year's resolutions. I usually set goals related to things like losing weight. Sometimes I set goals I am indeed able to accomplish. At other times, a few weeks pass and I slip back into old habits.

This year, I hope to learn from John Wesley, who taught not in terms of resolutions but in terms of renewal.

A resolution is an act of firm resolve to accomplish a particular goal, such as losing ten pounds or paying off a credit card. The problem with resolutions is that once a goal is met, I am done. My responsibility is finished and I go back to "normal." I've lost the ten pounds, so I go back to eating habits and could gain it back. The credit card is paid off, so I relax and use it freely, which could lead to the same lifestyle that got me there. Resolutions can be short-sighted and cyclical but not really change the behaviors or deeper issues.

What if the new year was about renewal instead? Renewal is not an experience of implementing new goals, but of making the old new ... again. It's not about new ideas but about the "RE" newed, the restored.

This year, I'm not making any resolutions. I'm entering a time in my annual rhythm when I plan to renew my commitment to the things already important to me ... wholeness and health, financial responsibility, and passionate creativity. Yes, goals can emerge from these commitments. But the renewal is a matter of the heart, and actions follow the heart.

John Wesley's Covenant Renewal Services are traditionally held around the beginning of the new year. Here is a Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan tradition used in these services. I hope to make it my prayer this year.

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.