Here we go. 2023. The earth has completed another trip around the sun, following its orbit. Probably you’ve finished celebrating too and now you’re back in the same cycle of the good old 2022. Study, or work (or maybe both), house, bed, music. Take down the Christmas decks, mute all carols, and the Christmas holiday looks like a remote memory of another era, probably another world, another you.
Yeah, because this year is already full of expectations, mainly coming from you and the new year resolution list. That list, a double edge sword. It can either motivate you, or pull you down in case those boxes are not ticked. It’s true that writing down new purposes, aims, dreams is very brave of us, but it is also true that most of the time, we fill in the blank page of the list just out of a euphoric courage.
“New year, New me”
It’s the slogan we use, which sounds like a death sentence to the other you from the previous year. It inebriates our minds at the exact moment we are ready to take note of what we want to achieve in the coming year.
Just like many of you who are reading these lines, I wrote down some stuff I wanted to achieve in twenty twenty-three. It wasn’t a long list and it wasn’t particularly challenging, but it had the bar of the expectations set up very high. Purposes that involved all the aspects of my life, from the very fleshly “Lose some weight” to the more spiritual “Read my Bible more”. Yes, I have many things to improve myself , and yet, although it’s been just 13 days of the new year, I already feel like those boxes are looking at me with a judgemental eye.
While I’m writing this, I am imagining the episode in John 8 about the adulterous woman and the Pharisees who were ready to stone her because of her sin. Our resolution list soon becomes like those pharisees, something that was meant to be a guide, it becomes our first judge, ready to cast the first stone on you. What was meant to push you to do better, can easily become the hand that cast stones made of shame, ineptitude, failure. And the hardest thing to accept is the fact that you wrote down your own sentence.
“New year, New me” sounds like one of those pompous lines used in politics, which sound like a big promise, yet full of nothing. It’s like a detailed, engraved, fancy golden frame, but without a picture inside.
The last couple of years, beginning from the first lockdown, till the end of 2022, just flew by. Looking back, it seems that 2/3 years have gone by in the blink of an eye. I have a friend who became a father during lockdown; now he doesn’t even know how that beautiful creature is able to walk into a nursery school speaking some words and interacting with other kids. I guess this is true for everyone, including myself.
Then, how strict should we be with ourselves, when it comes to formulating that list of boxes to tick? Let me reformulate that question in other words. Why are we always writing down changes and purposes with a very utopian mindset?
Of course, this blog article doesn’t want to tear down your purposes and aims for the next year. I clearly don’t want to stop you, or try to condemn your ideas and the changes you want to see in your life. It’s clearly not my place. But I want you to consider this.
Write down your list, draw as many squares as you need to be ticked for the next year. If you’ve already done so, then jump to the following instruction after this full stop. Take a step back from that page that once was blank and now it’s filled with ambitions, hope and willpower.
I don’t know what your points are, nor I expect to know how you felt when you were writing them down. New Year, new me, new you, new us. New what? What actually makes me feel a bit uncomfortable with this idea of “New year, new me” is the positivist vibe that it drags with itself. As if we have to carry a mini guru on our shoulders that at every stumbling moment, or at any failure, it reminds us how inadequate we are for this year.
The shift from 2022 to 2023 has not been the best for Italian football fans, as it saw the passing of two champions on the pitch and champions off the pitch. Siniša Mihajlović and Luca Vialli, the first mainly known to Serie A lovers who died in December; the latter, known also to the English premier league fans who passed away at the beginning of January. Men who are mainly remembered for their attitude with their respective illnesses, which was the attitude of warriors. Vialli, made his motto a quote that says, “20% of life is made of what happens to you, but 80% is how you react to those events”.
To some extent, I agree with this quote. The question is, can we always react with positivity? Transitioning this motto into the context of this article, how do you react to the failure of not being able to achieve the purpose that you gave yourself. When the new year doesn’t look new at all, but it feels like the same 2022, 2021, 2020 etc… (probably a little bit worse as your age is increasing) how do you react?
As I said before, I don’t want this article to be something that stops you from trying to work on yourself, or trying to set purposes, having a good attitude toward the new year. Especially because the theme of new, or being renewed, renew yourself is a theme that often recurs in the biblical text. I could quote to you different verses from both the Old Testament and New Testament that refer to a renewal of the person.
For example, famous Romans 12:2
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
2 Corinthians 5:17 One of my favourite verses, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” The entire gospel message is about renewing yourself. In the fourth gospel, in the third chapter, John reports the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus which speaks of being born again, a theological way to say “follow me, be renewed”. In a more pictorial way, yet very personal, King David speaks of a renewed heart and spirit in Psalm 51:10. “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me”. Or, Hosea 10:12 speaks about breaking the unploughed ground and start to sow righteousness as it’s time to seek the Lord.
I would never argue that being renewed, or trying to be a new, better person is something not to do. Actually, I hope that the verses mentioned above, may be a boost to your ideas and for the goals you want to achieve this new year. However, I think that vomiting on a paper a full list of things you want to change about yourself, and trying to work them out altogether, it’s not the best way of achieving that new you/us, especially in a context where there’s not much new, if nothing new at all.
We don’t have a Prime membership that allows us to achieve a change (never mind a full list) the day after we realise we want to make a change in our life. Though we’re one of the most versatile and adaptable species on earth, to make a single change takes aaaaages. Especially if we want to change something that is part of our characters, or a habit, or physical, or even spiritual. I really want you to look down at your new year resolutions. I am quite sure that your list includes the entire range of changings. This is the problem, that we think that just like with online shopping, we can achieve and get to the point of changing things in a short space of time. The resolution list quickly will become “The inept list”, not because you’re not good enough, but because your list is overwhelming.
Every single box that you want to tick, every single change in your life that you want to apply, every goal, purpose, ambition will be put to test this year. Every single day. It will be there, ready to cast the first stone at every failure. But I want you to know this. In our previous series, before Christmas, “Words to Live By”, looking at the sermon on the mount, we saw that Jesus said, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Mt 6:34) Please notice that I know the context is not the same, but I think I am not too far off if I apply the idea of this passage in what I’m saying here. Jesus was speaking about material possession and food, and he was saying that we should not look beyond our noses.
We should keep our eyes on what’s now, we should take each moment knowing that God knows and provides what we need. I want to use the same idea here, by saying that we should not look too far from today. That our resolution lists should not have many lines or boxes to tick. Personally, I think that one box at a time is the best way to realistically achieve your resolution list. In fact, even more than that. In that way there is space for failures too. Especially when you entrust that change to God.
“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
I don’t know where you are at the moment with your resolution list. I hope that you will reshape it, writing down only one box at a time and working hard for it. More than that, I hope that you entrust all the aspects of your life not to some sort of positive vibe guru, who doesn’t allow space for suffering and failures. But to the God who created you, who in the deepest of the valleys walks with you and makes the path straight for you. The God who in the hardships understands you, and who challenges you in the depth of your being and comforts you in the deepest of your soul. God, for sure, will never change.
New year, same God, same love.
Matteo Garofano, Christchurch Xscape