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I know. Everyone says, “my resolutions do not last”—or “I don’t believe in resolutions.” My, we have excuses galore not to resolve to be better or happier whether at the new year or anytime in our lives. Yes, you can make resolutions anytime throughout the year but the first day of the year offers us, collectively, a reminder that it’s a good time to take stock and see where we can be better persons and better followers in our faith and spirituality. It’s also a good starting point meaning that you usually don’t forget that you made such and such a resolution at the New Year. It’s kind of a conscience jolt if you lapse into the laziness of forgetting or ignoring your resolution. You remember a resolution better if you make it on a significant day like New Year’s Day.
I always make resolutions at the new year. It’s a way for me to be more disciplined in many areas of my life. And, yes, I make them again when I’m on retreat at some point during the year, but somehow New Year’s feels really appropriate to tackle the ‘big concerns’ that encase my life and shield me like a cocoon so I can hide in the shadows ignoring what I should change.
We make resolutions about weight loss, exercise, healthier eating, giving up smoking, etc., all in the interest of better health. This is so important. Make those resolutions and make every effort to keep them. Actually, it is fun to keep a record of how you’re doing in these goals so make those resolutions, just make them and go from there.
We also make resolutions to develop our minds by reading more, joining discussion groups, taking classes, finding parts of our brain that also need enhancing and challenging. If you lift weights and challenge your body, you need to do it for the mind as well.
But what about spirituality? Your soul needs tending also. Your soul needs to grow, to expand, to bring greater joy and maturity to your overall health. You will be a much happier person if you tend to this part of your humanness as much as you tend to the physical and mental part of yourself.
I would like to offer some suggestions for resolutions in this part of one’s life. First, consider making a retreat. Pico Iyer, the well-known travel writer once said in an interview on NPR, that most of us live within a drivable and often 30-minute drive at that, from a retreat center. Such centers offer quiet areas where you can settle into the challenge of personal reflection and make some solid resolutions for your spiritual life. There are 29 Jesuit Spiritual Centers in the United States and many more sponsored by other religious communities. They are found on websites if you Google retreat centers. Our Center in Parma, Ohio is an extraordinary place of peace which will furnish you with what you need to develop meaningful resolutions for your growing spirituality.
Second, carve out a place of your own for quiet, prayerful reflection on a regular basis. You will be surprised how much joy and growth you will experience. You can read and reflect on scripture in such an environment. Just doing that is prayer. Or you can spend the time simply listening for God to speak. This is the prayer of ‘being’ that I have written about in previous blogs. You can do this regularly in your home though some people choose a place of worship. The point is to resolve that you will do it regularly.
Third, you can resolve to seek out a spiritual director to walk with you on your journey of deeper faith. Retreat Centers usually have a cadre of directors they can recommend. This person is trained in spirituality and sometimes theology and is skilled in listening and discerning with clients how God might be working the client’s life.
These are three resolutions you can make or at least one of which you can make to help you become healthier and happier in the spiritual life. Do not be afraid to try one or all of them. I have witnessed miraculous results in the lives of many people who took the step to make such resolutions. Think of it as embarking on a boat—going out to sea. An adventure awaits. Unfurl the sails, ready the oars and go for it. The poet Rumi said it best:
“On a day when the wind is perfect,
the sail just needs to open
and the love starts.”
(Love Poems from God, edited by Daniel Ladinsky, p. 80.)
Your first step is to make the resolution. Take some time to ask God what you should do. Think of these options. Choose one or all. Ask God: Be with me God as I seek a way to renew myself in your love, to make myself a believer whose faith and love is exactly what you want me to share with others.
Give me the courage to take the step I need to take. I want to believe in you and myself. I want to be happier and holier. I want to unfurl the sail so the love can start.
Happy New Year to each of you, my dear readers. This is a wonderful time to start anew, to give yourself the opportunity to flourish.