New Year—2016—a chance to start over again. I might suggest that every new day affords us a chance to start over again, but I DO recognize the unique feature of having the calendar turn a page to something new. And if we need an excuse to stop doing something bad for us—like overeating—or for NOT doing the things that will make us healthier and happier—like increased exercise—then I say January 1st, 2016 is as good an excuse as any.
Are you one to make such resolutions? I am personally a victim of the first one I mentioned. My eating habits are awful. I may go two or even three meals without eating and then eat like a pig (apologies to pigs everywhere). This is NOT a healthy lifestyle. And the really bad news is that I probably exercise plenty—but it can never be enough to offset this dumb eating habit. So I am going to try and be more disciplined about that in 2016.
I have heard some of you speak of various resolutions you are hoping to fulfill: things like spending more time with family and friends, working more reasonable hours, giving up smoking or drinking to excess. Some of you I have heard are going more exotic. I heard one of my friends talk about finally doing that trip to Australia this year, the one he’d been wanting to do for many years, but just never worked it out. When I asked why 2016, he said, “Because I’m not sure I’ll be here in 2017.” My friend is nowhere near death under normal circumstances, but his message to me was valuable—there is never a time like the present.
John Lennon is quoted as saying “life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” My friend’s resolution for 2016 seems to be NOT to let life pass him by and then wonder where it went. It may not be Australia for you. Maybe it’s somewhere much closer to home.
Way back when I was in college, my major was psychology. A lot of what I did was lab-related stuff like running mice through mazes and examining the brains of rhesus monkeys (ask me about split-brain research—better yet, maybe not). But I do recall what I thought was a fairly, universal trait of most all human beings: most of us spend most of our time doing those things that will help us to avoid pain more than actively pursuing those things we know will bring us joy. I know that sounds wrong—like it OUGHT to be the other way around. But it seems to be true for most of us.
So for 2016, I suggest we all share some resolutions together: First, that we all strive toward those things we know make us whole. Make out your own list, but write it down and post it somewhere as a reminder. Second, that we make a concerted effort to attend to the spiritual dimension of our lives. Some of you are already VERY good at this. For some, maybe it’s being in worship more often, for some maybe serving in the church in some new way (I’ll help you with that if you like), for others maybe being in a study group. Third, find a way to be more generous with your time this year. Volunteer in the church, at your school, in your neighborhood, in an organization that does good work. (By the way, I’m betting you’ll find that doing numbers two and three will help you to achieve number one.)
God Bless 2016. May it be our best year, ever!
Kristin Clark-Banks is the pastor of Forest Hills UMC.