My family and I have decided to have our New Year’s Eve supper tonight since our two sons have big plans for tomorrow. We eat collard greens and black eyed peas, along with cornbread. In Carrie’s family of origin, the collard greens stood for dollar bills and the black eyed peas for change, so the children were motivated to eat a lot. Corn Bread was just a treat.
Our family ritual, as we eat those somewhat unappetizing foods, is to go around the table making resolutions for the New Year. We each come up with half a dozen or so, and they tend to repeat since we usually fail to achieve them. Mostly they involve food, exercise, and time together.
At Church I normally preach a New Year’s sermon on the value of pausing to take stock of where we are in our relationship with God, where we would like to be at this time next year, and what we need to do to get there. Mostly I stand by that practice. There are things we can do that our tradition assures us do indeed help us to grow closer to God. It is hard to see how spending more time in prayer each day could do anything but help.
And yet a reservation occurs to me. Our relationship with God does depend in part on us. But not only on us. I can resolve to grow closer to my wife or children. But if they don’t also want more closeness, if they don’t simultaneously seek to draw closer to me, my best efforts will be for naught. The same is even more true in our relationship with God. Whatever progress we experience comes from the grace of God, not from our own best efforts.
I still want to draw closer to God. But this year, instead of resolving on the things I will do, I plan to make a resolution about the posture I will take: a posture of openness. I cannot do all. I can’t even do much. But I can wait patiently for God’s grace to work on me. And I can strive to be open and receptive when God’s grace pours down.
So that is my most important New Year’s resolution: to wait patiently for God. And to be open to whatever God sends.
Fr. Harvey Hill
This blog is my occasional reflections on life, God, Christian faith, and the Church. I hope you find it helpful!