I used to hate January. It was bare and void of twinkling lights, a month still dark. Winter without Christmas, like a pre-Aslan Narnia. At some point, however, I realized the newness of a year and the joy of a list of goals could make it fresh and clean. Calmer than the feasting of November and December.
Now, I embrace the first month of the year. I spend the week between Christmas day and the New Year in evaluation of the old year, planning and dreaming for the new. It all comes back to change: the hope I can continue to change, to become better in various ways, and at various things.
Last year about this time, I ran across a video describing how John Piper treats the end of each year. He stops with a deep level of seriousness, asking himself something like “If this has been the last year I am to live, how did it go?” That’s the starting point for him in evaluating. In a similar vein, one of Jonathan Edwards famous resolutions: “Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.”
There is that serious level in which I recognize how brief life is and how fast it is whizzing by, and there are both big and little things to change, goals to make. Moments to seize and a life to turn into an offering. I look at the past year and in many ways it should be considered a stunning success. I’ve begun to practice medicine again, and in a way that doesn’t overwhelm the rest of my life. I have moved into a home where I hope we live for decades, and have unpacked and organized almost everything in it. I’ve learned to cook better and more. I became proficient in playing the cello, and read piles of books. I’ve lost a grand total of 50 pounds over the last year and a half. Last week, I ran a mile in 8:30, and a 5K distance in about 31 minutes. It should be a year I consider a success.
But I need to pray more. I need to wake up earlier. I need to read scripture with my children more. I need to eat less, to sit less. I desperately need more patience, especially as I parent. There are a thousand things I’ve failed at. I’ll never know enough medicine really, the information is massive and unending; all of us doctors will forever be students. I’ve got fourteen books I’ve started but not finished, when I really should go one-at-a-time. Or even just three-at-a-time.
At the end of a year, and the beginning of a new one, I begin and end at Grace. The grace of God that made past success possible, the Grace that also covers a thousand failures. The file that contains my failed and half-kept resolutions has been emptied and replaced with Christ’s perfect life.
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)