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The Rev. Dr. Frederick W. Schmidt The Rev. Dr. Frederick Schmidt
The Rev. Dr. Frederick Schmidt holds the Rueben P. Job Chair in Spiritual Formation and directs the Rueben P. Job Institute for Spiritual Formation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. He is an Episcopal priest and author.

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Frederick Schmidt: 4 Reasons for Abandoning New Year’s Resolutions

January 12, 2017

On one level, I have no specific objection to New Year's resolutions. Any opportunity for change and improvement is a welcome occasion.

Evidently, countless cultures have thought so as well. As far as I can tell the practice goes back to the Babylonians and has been renewed somewhere in the world ever since.

From a Christian perspective, however, there are good reasons to be a bit skeptical (apart from the statistics that suggest we aren't terribly good at following through on the resolutions that we make).

One, the calendar year is not the Christian year.

It's fun to join in with the rest of the culture to "ring in the new and ring out the old."  For Christians, though, the new year begins in Advent with the coming of Christ. Our sense of the opportunity for renewal lies in the promise that God is doing something new, not in the conviction that history is capable of making that promise.

Two, "wherever we go there we are."

The arbitrary change in a calendar year, which can promise nothing, is not as nearly important as the one constant that colors every year: you and me.  The magical thinking that personifies an old year with fatal flaws and invests a new year with unrealistic promise tends to obscure that truth.

Three, the best time to change is now.

The promise of the Christian message is that change is always possible. We aren't tied to a calendar. There is nothing inevitable about the character of a given year.  We are not stuck with the choices that we have made.  What we do need to acknowledge and embrace the need for change and seek God's help.

Four, life is meant to be lived reflectively - all the time.

If there is one resolution that might embrace all the others and carry us through a year, it is the resolution to live reflectively.

Ignatius of Loyola told his followers that if there was time for one spiritual exercise in their lives, the most important one was "the Examen." The Examen could be described in a number of different ways, but essentially it involves a daily review of life that entails asking two questions:

What were the moments in which I was drawn, in love, closer to God and others?

What were the moments in which I was driven away from God and others?

Armed with the answers to those questions, the results provide a basis for living each new day that is guided by an ever-deepening connection with God and those around us.

That's the kind of life that can't be had by making resolutions late on December 31st.

From Frederick's blog at Patheos.com


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