Each time the calendar turns to January, we’re inundated with new ways to eat clean, organize our drawers according to what we love or find useful, start a new workout routine, or figure out how best to get our goals met. We pick new rhythms, routines, a word of the year, or a new intention.
I’ve selected a word of the year in the past and even embroidered them on a hoop to root me through Advent and Christmas. Something small and beautiful to help me remember, to help me focus and to really choose to find beauty amidst the chaos of life.
We’re met with a fresh calendar page and the hope of a new year: that somehow this will be the year that I accomplish X, Y, or Z. This will be the year that I write the book. Lose 10 pounds. Become a calm parent. Go on that vacation. Actually read the Bible and pray every day.
But this year, I’m done with resolutions. Why? It’s not that ideals, goals, dreams and plans are bad. I would’ve never written a book if I’d hoped it would’ve just “gotten done.” Instead, I woke up at 5am most mornings to write. Sometimes the words came, other times I threw away huge swathes of text. Habits, routines, rhythms and goals help give structure to our days. But I’m beginning to think the “I resolve…” phrase isn’t the point.
“I resolve” puts us in a position of power: it presupposes we have the ability, privilege, and wherewithal to master our bodies, our schedules, our finances. And when we don’t meet our new resolutions, we cower in shame, laugh off the size of our resolutions, or choose our favorite way to numb our failure. But with every resolution, we place a stick in the ground claiming we are in charge, that what matters is what is individual resolves (rather than communal belonging) and that we have the power to drastically effect change.
With “resolution” language, time becomes a stricture, something we use to measure progress — and by progress, I mean personal worth. We no longer inhabit time like a story. Instead, we measure it, we spend it, we save it. We use it like a commodity: our time goes to the highest bidder and we’re only as valuable as how productive we are, if we meet our reading goals or lose those 10 pounds.
The problem with time is that it never was created as a way to control, a way to wrestle our selves within it so that we could measure ourselves by it. Time was created as an outpouring of God’s great love.
In the beginning — when there even was a beginning to begin speaking about — God in his infinite love, existence and power, created time and space. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — outside of time — shaped the cosmos into existence, giving form to the void. Giving time to space and space to time.
We are finite creatures, yet we push and pull against the boundaries of creation. Never turning off, never slowing down, or finally, when we do, we collapse in lethargy, exhaustion, and too many Netflix shows.
What would it look like to practice one small step? Just a small toe-dip into inhabiting a story that’s as large as the cosmos? Could we learn to be a participant in the wider story of redemption rather than holding fast to resolutions?
So for today, try a walk. Move your body. Swing your arms. Notice the sunshine — that rises and sets without your will or resolve. Spread your toes, feel the ground beneath your feet — with its own underground network and life cycle that we can neither see nor know about entirely. Breathe. You are alive. You are a child of God.
We practice smallness as an antidote to the hype that says you have to change yourself to be loved. Wrap that truth around you. Sure, eat healthy, move your body, use the time you have well, but also: let’s practice the fine and slow art of simply being human.
That is what we’re created to be, after all.