Honestly, it is just another day, just another page on the calendar. Most of us have seen a lot of them, but for whatever reason, we think of this as something special. At the beginning of a new year we make resolutions, we look back at the things we did poorly (or worse) and think about how we might do better. Each January we promise ourselves that we will right the wrongs and injustices of the past and make the world a better place. We make promises to ourselves about everything from losing weight, to helping the environment to bringing about world peace.
As a rule, most of us are better at making promises than we are keeping them. People who regularly work out at the gym or swim laps at the pool often make a point of skipping the month of January because so many new members show up after making resolutions to exercise or lose weight. Normally, by the first week of February the crowd is gone and the regulars go back to their routine with, perhaps one or two new regulars who were able to stick to the plan and make a new habit.
All in all this isn’t a bad thing. In a way it reflects our optimism for the future and our willingness to change. We believe that we can make the future better and we are willing to try to do better, to try to improve ourselves. While the first day of the year is technically no different than any other day, we seem to recognize more clearly that change is possible and that the future is yet to be written. Indeed, none of us can change the past. What is behind us has shaped us and molded us, and sometimes wounded us, and made us into the people we have become, but we do not have to remain the same. Most of us have a few rough edges that could stand to be worked on, or have good qualities that could stand to be exercised and strengthened. Many of us have gaps in our education, things we should have learned in school or in life, or things that we wish we could learn but never had the chance.
With the beginning of a new year, why not take that chance now?
Most likely, there are precious few of us who can do much to bring about world peace, but that doesn’t mean we are powerless to do anything. Why not take this opportunity to make a change for the better? Personally, I encourage you to start small. Babies don’t learn to walk with giant steps, but small ones. If you want to exercise more, it’s probably better to make your goal to walk three days a week rather than to run in the next marathon on Hall of Fame weekend. The same holds true in your spiritual life. If you make a resolution to pray an hour a day and you aren’t currently praying at all, you probably will get frustrated and quit. Think smaller. Don’t be afraid to take baby steps. If you want to pray more, think about praying for five minutes a day more than you already are. If you want to start studying the Bible, start by reading a chapter a day, or for five minutes each day (that’s about the same). If you want to give more to missions, or to help the poor and the hungry, or invite people to church, or whatever, think about one small step that you can do easily. Then do it. Take small bites. Big things happen a little at a time.
As we begin the New Year remember this: Change is possible. You can make a difference. But big things happen a little at a time. Don’t start big and get discouraged. Start small. Think of one positive change that you can make in your life, or in the life of the church. Pick something that doesn’t stretch you too much but one that you can do regularly and reliably, and then build from there. Make a goal…
Then do it.