I can’t help but shake that feeling a new year brings that I’m supposed to “do better,” “improve,” or “make it count.” Bold directives that remind me of the anxious anticipation of waiting for my turn in a grade school relay race. Messages that don’t make me want to run as much as they make me want to run away.
In these heady days of a new year, I feel uber-aware of every action, or worse, every inaction. It’s a similar feeling to the relief of confession. I love the clean slate but I also want to lock myself in the house or duct tape my mouth closed so I won’t risk sinning again. Once we delve into the grit and grind of life, both a new year and a clean soul can easily tarnish like the best of intentions.
Only, I’m not a new person despite the change on the calendar. I sat down to work and immediately googled Lab Rescues of Florida. I am not planning on getting another dog in 2021, but somehow the urge to read the personality traits and health history of every adoptable dog was a pressing priority. Likewise, while I intended to work at my desk with ergonomically correct posture this year, I slouched on the couch hovering over the keyboard, spine twisted like a buttery breadstick. By mid-afternoon, I passed my water cup in lieu of the curdle of reheated coffee. None of it felt very ‘new.’
Every year, each family member picks a word to guide or inspire them for the next 365 days. (Last year, my word was brave. I learned that was like praying for patience and I spent the year facing all kinds of situations that terrified me.) When my husband asked me about my word for this year, I was hesitant. We debated the merits of the words “freedom,” and “embrace.” I was afraid if I chose “freedom,” I would have a slew of rescue dogs living with me by the year’s end.
“Embrace” felt like a better choice. Embrace opportunity. Embrace people. Embrace God. Embrace change. The possibilities were endless. Yet, somehow all of that embracing made me want to curl up into the fetal position and embrace being alone. Finally, I read something out of the Diary of Saint Faustina. It said, “Whatever Jesus did, He did well.” At first, this sounded like one of those emblazoned motivational New Year’s messages that make me feel defeated before I even try. I read on: “He went along, doing good. His manner was full of goodness and mercy. His steps were guided by compassion. Toward his enemies, he showed goodness, kindness, and understanding, and to those in need of help and consolation” (Diary, 1175).
Jesus didn’t aspire to become the “best of,” the “greatest at,” or the “most amazing.” His life wasn’t one of superlatives or self-improvement. It was one of service, of the simplicity, of just “doing good.” He wasn’t trying to outshine anyone. He wanted to let the love of our heavenly father shine through him. It is true that whatever Jesus did, he did well. But what is more important is what he prioritized as worth doing well. This was simply love. Jesus loved well so we could see how to love well too. That’s an idea that regardless of what intention you make for the year, or what word you choose to guide you, is worth considering. Or, if you are like me, it’s one you’ll want to embrace.
Hi all~ We made it to 2021(I’m not convinced it’s looking very different!) Still, we have the hope of God and almost an entire year left to share his light with others. I pray that we will all be resolute in sharing God’s mercy with everyone we encounter this year. It is such a game-changer! would love to know what intentions, resolutions, or hopes you have for the New Year? ~ love, Lara
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