How do you celebrate the New Year? We’ve hailed the dawn of a fresh year in a whole variety of ways. We’ve danced till the clock struck midnight. We’ve watched the famed ball drop in Times Square. We’ve had quiet suppers with friends and family. We’ve attended boisterous parties. And no matter what else we’ve done, we’ve made resolutions. Year in and year out, on New Year’s Day we’ve set out to change something for the better – usually ourselves. But this year, we’re changing the drill. This year, instead of resolving we’re reflecting.
Christine Valters Paintner, Ph.D. has written a journal entitled “Crossing the Threshold: New Year, New Beginnings,” in which she offers suggestions for welcoming the New Year and entering it meaningfully. Paintner notes that while resolutions are well and good, they often aim too high. She suggests that we would fail less frequently at our lofty resolutions if we first cultivated some modest changes of heart that might enable the bigger and more dramatic new possibilities to take root in us. And how might we encourage those modest changes of heart? Paintner claims that intentional and focused reflection is a great staring point. Here are a few of her suggestions for life-changing reflection.
Reflect on preparing. Before rushing headlong into the New Year, stop and assess. Listen to your life, starting on the inside. What murmurings do your hear? Is anything new pulsing and stirring? Is there a door waiting to be opened or a threshold to cross to a new beginning? Before you set out, take stock – prepare.
Reflect on reconciliation. Look back thoughtfully across the past year. Can you identify any relationships that need repair? Perhaps there is someone to whom you owe an apology for a hurt you caused intentionally or even unintentionally. Could you ask for forgiveness? Perhaps someone has wounded you. Can you offer forgiveness? The mending of ruptured bonds is a way to open our hearts to richer and more significant relationships. Allow your relationships to reflect the freshness of the New Year – reconcile.
Reflect on what you love. Think about all the people and all the activities and all the ideas you most love. What if the New Year were filled with more encounters with them? Think of a way to sprinkle the days ahead with all that is beloved to you. Wouldn’t life feel more deeply nourishing and sustaining and delightful if everything and everyone you loved played a more prominent role in it? Reconsider love.
Reflect on your dreams. The New Year arrives at the season of the year in which daylight is shortest and darkness most pronounced. Let the shadows of this season encourage your dreams. Do you harbor some hopes you have not yet brought to the light? Are there longings to pursue? Wishes to acknowledge? If you’ve stifled any persistent dreams, why not reconsider their value to you. Possibilities abound – and so could your dreams.
Of course, there are countless other fruitful reflections possible for us, and there really is ample opportunity to engage in them and let them slowly mold us. Nothing need remain static and unchanging. After all, we’re aboard the earth which will spin 365 times and circle the sun once more before the next New Year comes. The vantage point and the options before us are constantly renewing themselves. No wonder the One we worship says, “Behold I am making all things new.”