What would you like for the new year? How about a new nose and new feet? Better yet, a new soul?
Listen to what the stern minded G. K. Chesterton said: “The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes.”
A pretty strange statement! I suspect that Chesterton meant that unless the whole person is made new, there is no hope for us. It reminds me of the Calvinist teaching I learned in my youth—we are all totally depraved. That means every part of each a person is tainted by sin. So unless the whole person is made new, we are lost.
I believe that your soul (your “inner being,” your “center,” or whatever word you prefer) is not in a hopeless state of sin, and it certainly does not need replacement. (Of course, neither is it in a state of purity and innocence!) I believe your whole person, right down to your core, is becoming something different and new every day.
Let’s think for a moment about how we change.
We are never the same physical person from one year to the next. Our body is made of trillions of cells, many of which regularly die and are replaced. Some, like skin and the lining of the stomach, are replaced in a manner of weeks. Others, like muscle and bone, are replaced more slowly. Brain cells—well, they mostly stay put, and if some die, it’s adios. We are physically not the same people we were last year!
Let’s face it: these physical changes can greatly affect how we feel and how we act.
There are lots more ways we are constantly changing, both in physical ways and not-so-physical ways:
- We may feel much better or worse about an acquaintance or even a spouse than we used to.
- We may have lost some of the energy of our youth.
- Fortunately, we also may have learned some discipline in diet and exercise.
- We may have been changed by a serious illness.
- We may have lost some foolish behaviors.
- And we may have even gained a bit of wisdom!
Some of these changes just happened to us and were beyond our control. Other changes have happened at least in part as a result of our conscious thoughts and actions. All these changes, whether intentional or unavoidable, gradually effect a deeper change inside us. We are new beings every day−and, happily, we can even have some affect on what we are becoming!
We are amazingly complex beings. No simple formula will change us into something we are not, so let’s take it easy on ourselves in 2014:
- There’s no “total depravity,” so let’s let go of judging ourselves.
- Let’s not try to change who we are.
- And let’s let go of all the things that are outside of our control, including unavoidable changes in our bodies.
- Let’s practice being gently aware of our thoughts and actions.
- If we have been good to ourselves in the above ways, we should be able to mindfully work on a few habits that will enhance our lives in the new year.
- Finally, think of it all as an experiment. We can never determine outcomes−we can just do our best and let that be enough.
It’s wonderful that we once again have a New Year. So, in 2015, let’s not worry about changing our innermost selves. Let’s honor the magnificent, changing human beings we already are, and move on from there.Share: by