New year’s resolutions have been with us a long time.
The ancient Babylonians, whose calendar started in March, celebrated the New Year with a 12 day festival called Akitu that consisted of rituals revolving around civic and personal responsibilities. It was an affirmation of the natural cycles of life, underscored by a commitment to live life better.
The Romans did something similar. At first, they also conducted their celebrations in March, according to an agriculturally focused calendar, but sometime around 300 B.C., they made a shift to a more familiar kick off of the year – Janurary 1 – and their festivals were geared towards Janus, the god of beginnings. Liked the Babylonians, the festivals carried political, as well as personal weight.
As time marched on, the celebration of the New Year was accompanied by a lot of partying, regardless of the culture, it seems. The partying got so bad that by the mid 1700’s John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, came up with a new kind of church service to distract Christians from all the revelry. These Watchnight services, as they’ve come to be called, were referred to in Wesley’s time as Covenant Renewal Services, where Christians would resolve themselves by reviewing the past year, confessing sin and preparing for the year ahead through prayer, worship and a resolution.
These days, New Year’s resolutions are usually made at midnight on January 1st at the height of revelry and often include the losing of weight and/or the quitting of vices like drinking or smoking. Visit any YMCA during the last week of December and then again during first week of January, and you’ll see that New Year’s resolutions are still a thing. Return to the same YMCA in February, and you’ll see how effective New Year’s resolutions are.
I’ve never been much of a New Year’s resolution maker, but for many reasons, I’ve decided to give it a go this year. Life has been crazy the past few years, and perhaps the beginning of a new year is the kind of psychic jump-start I need to bring some order to the chaos.
To that end, I’ve set out the following goals:
- Pursue God: what this means most to me is reading scripture and praying more and better. Gratitude is included in this. I want to count my blessings more in 2016 than I did in 2015.
- Be a better husband, father and friend: without getting into too much detail here, this means being less selfish, more present and more intentional.
- Be healthier: less sugar; less eating like a pig; more exercise. Today, I’m 212 lbs. This time next year, I’ll be 190 lbs.
- Create more: this blog is a manifestation of this goal – I aim to write one blog post for each day of 2016. Each post will at least look for what was beautiful in that day and what I’m grateful for. Creating will also include other forms like photography, videography and other kinds of writing.
- Take more risks/be more adventurous: more on this at a later date.
- Be better with money: a lifelong struggle. I suck at this.
- Be better organized: I can be a better steward of my time by being a better organizer and prioritizer of it.
- Be a better noticer of the beauty around me: this ties into the “Create more,” but is more of a minute-to-minute rhythm that has always been with me, but has seemed to be lacking lately.
- Read more: Up until a couple years ago, I’ve always been a bookworm. Life and electronic devices have disrupted this habit.
I’ll check in on these goals from time-to-time and use this blog to hold me accountable and check my progress. Who knows? Maybe I’ll add more.
Last night, I spent New Year’s Eve at a friend’s house with my wife and one of my daughters and one of her friends. John Wesley would’ve been proud of the lack of revelry, though he’d of winced at the lack of godly worship. Rather than liturgy, we focused on community by playing Shanghai Rum and Oh Hell!
In between games, while we loaded up on Buffalo chicken dip, hummus and sweets, I asked everyone gathered to tell me their hopes for 2016. Here’s what they came up with…
Happy New Year to you. I hope you achieve all of your goals and have the best year yet.