There is a mandate this time of year. It requires lingering in our past while also tiptoeing into the future. I tell people I gave up making New Year’s resolutions for Lent. Theologically, I realize I am twisting the concept and dancing with heresy. Perhaps I need to leave Jesus out of my foolishness and be honest enough to say I simply don’t like making resolutions. Resolutions require I take inventory of where I have been, and I am prone to only see where I have failed. I can quickly set up house on the corner of regret and shame. Resolutions require I look forward and I am disposed to bedding down with fear. Going into unknown territory and playing “what if/why don’t I” is a dangerous game for me. The resolution mandate is not good for me. Except I am learning. I am learning day by day how to hold the tension of looking back and forward simultaneously.
There were days in 2020 when checking the mail was a major success. If I take a break from binge watching Netflix, if I get out of this bed, if I put the baklava down for just three minutes and check the mail, then I have accomplished something. Let’s not judge me, you’ve had that day as well. There were days in 2020 when I was less than kind to someone in Walmart. Perhaps there was a buggy jam in the potato chip aisle and instead of waiting sweetly for my turn at the salt and vinegars, my attitude turned towards cranky. But there were days I was good too. I was a thoughtful friend. I took a high road. I trusted someone with a secret and felt better for shedding some light on it. Reflecting and taking inventory is important. It lets us know what is serving us well and what we need not invest in any longer. Looking back comes with some sweetness if we remember to practice acceptance and gratitude.
Not every day came with achievements. I accept those days and practice gratitude for them. I am thankful for Netflix, a comfy bed and the genius behind a chef who conquers baklava. I am grateful I beat my “mean reds” as Holly Golighty calls them and retrieved the mail. Some days the best I have in me is to get out of bed for three minutes. I could very well see that as a failure of character. I can and do make it my work to be cruel to myself over not being better. Sometimes we are where we are, and our best is our best. We accept this truth. It is, indeed, what it is. My life became so much more pleasant when I accepted us humans are doing the best we know how. It is easy to see the best in ourselves when we are excelling or met with a thoughtful kindness of a stranger. It is more difficult when we are cruel, or someone is harsh with us. Looking back on our lives teaches us these things and they are worthy lessons. Sometimes “best” means we are champions. Sometimes it means we made it to the mailbox. When looking back, make the trip with acceptance and gratitude. It is the only way to travel back in time.
If looking back means taking a hearty inventory while practicing acceptance and gratitude, what does looking forward require of us? How do we take what we learned in our inventory and set out to be better than what we had once called our “best”? We invest in faith and hope. My greatest fears are I will lose people and things I love. Without faith and hope my whole being will mire down in fear. I imagine myself living in a gaping wound left vacant because someone or something was lost along the way. What if the money dries up? What if my parents die? What if my house catches on fire? What if my health fails me? What if, what if, what if. The truth is we will realize only a small percentage of our what ifs. What ifs are the trickiest of all. We will often take the slide into the future on a what if only to find we haven’t taken along faith or hope. I can venture into the future completely leaving the awesome goodness of my God behind. I have never been in a place where I could not find the strength to simply breathe through it. I have seen my share of complete and utter pain. I have been in places where the only tool I had was to count my breaths as the seconds passed, one by one. You’ve been there too. It is not an alien place to you either. Yet, you took those breaths. You had faith the worst thing would not be the last thing. You kept breathing. You lived fully into the horror of the very second, yet you found a way to breath through it. That is faith. That is hope. This is why we look back with acceptance and gratitude—so we can go forward in faith and hope. We take along our God and we remember with faith the promises made us; the promises kept. Never indulge in a what if without also taking along your God. It is far too dangerous a journey to make. Faith and hope. Even for the smallest of resolutions these two are required, carry them closely.
Resolutions. Some people love them. Some people don’t even bother. It is a lot of time travel. On New Year’s Day I put resolutions on the side with my black-eyed peas, greens and cornbread. If I decide to partake, I do so carefully. Time travel, if done correctly, requires a steady and disciplined constitution. I see the benefit of remembering where I have been. I see the potential in making goals to be better. I understand those two. However, my philosophy has become one that forbids time travel. “Keep your mind where your feet are.” I, and probably you too, were designed for this moment. I hope your moments are fully lived. I hope you will find yourself accepting and grateful. May you walk into 2021 with a great and honest hope and a faith in our potential for all things beautiful.