I have never been one for New Year’s resolutions, mainly because I have never been able to keep any I’ve made much beyond the end of January. Novelist John Hassler once commented at a reading on the publication of The Dean’s List that he had discovered the secret of happiness involved lowering expectations. I believe he is onto something significant. So, maintaining a long and honored tradition I have made no resolutions this year and thus have removed the possibility of having one more thing to feel guilty about as the weeks pass. It’s a good system, and I recommend it.
Though these are definitely not resolutions, there are a few things I would like to make part of my life this year.
I’d like to be a better listener. Sometimes I think that the best single phrase summary of my life would be “learning to hear.” There are so many reasons to desire this that listing them all would be a wearisome task. To the best of my knowledge there is not a single reason that can be found against the idea.
I’d like to pay more attention to creation. I live in the city, work in an office, and so my brushes with nature tend to be that—brushes. I tend to brush past plants and flowers and other fellow creatures on my way to something else. But they are fellow creatures, reveal the Creator’s glory, and their existence is not an afterthought in the cosmic scheme of things. I should not live as if they were an afterthought.
I’d like to not change the world. The political and religious pundits that keep urging us to accomplish this have really gotten on my nerves. The entire enterprise seems presumptuous, for the simple reason that only God can do such a thing. I am called to be faithful in the ordinary and routine of my life. I am to live out the truth of the biblical story under Christ’s Lordship in whatever corner of life I find myself in and in every aspect of reality and culture my existence touches. Faithfulness in the ordinary—it is more than enough.
I’d like to read more poetry. William Cowper (1731-1800), one of the very few Christian hymn writers who happened to be a great poet believed that poetry was the original form of natural human speech prior to the fall into sin. I think he may have been onto something. Poetry cannot be hurried, is best read aloud, and requires reflection—all excellent reasons to enjoy it more.
I’d like to see more tattoos. I am an introvert with no gifts in evangelism, but I do enjoy talking with young adults about the things that matter most. Just this morning the barista who made my latte had beautiful blue ink on her upper arm peeking out under her sleeve. I asked her about it, and she lifted up her sleeve and told me the story behind it. It’s fascinating to hear people’s stories, and most of the stories about tattoos touch on events or ideas that are significant in their lives.
I’d like to get art I don’t like. By “get” I don’t mean, “buy,” but “understand.” I find it easy to skip the galleries that feature postmodern art, instead concentrating on art I find easy to comprehend and enjoy. Nothing wrong with that, and if I have one more chance to see paintings by Rembrandt this next year I’ll take it. But I don’t live in Rembrandt’s day and the artists at work today are part of the cultural conversation that is exploring the perennial issues of life, meaning, morality, and death. I like to have at least a hint of what that conversation includes.
I’d like to have meals take more time. Good food should be savored and the conversation at the table unhurried. Of course we all say we don’t enough time as it is, but that is really just a convenient lie—we always have time for what we find significant. There is something really fine about sharing a meal together. It is, Scripture teaches, a foretaste of the time when the Lord of all the far-flung galaxies will serve us food and wine in a celebration fit for a well-beloved bride. I’m especially looking forward to the wine.