Research indicates that 80 percent of people ditch their New Year’s resolutions by February. The hopes and promises which abounded just a few short weeks ago have dissolved during the first month of the new year.
As I mentioned in my pastor’s column in late December, I appreciate the opportunity to plan for the year to come, to set goals and establish visions that I hope will be part of the new year. Yet, I also have struggled to follow through with New Year’s resolutions. Some resolutions stick; others barely begin before being castoff.
I think one reason New Year’s resolutions can fail is because they become one more thing to do. Most of us already live crowded, full lives. Many of us have little free time, or if we do have free time, we fill it compulsively. When we make our New Year’s resolutions we add another goal or goals into our crowded agenda with the hopes that this one action will make all the difference across our lives. “If only I can (fill in the blank with your own goal – eat healthy, go to the gym, save more money, get a promotion), then my life will have the balance and joy and love that I desire.” Next year will be different than this year, we think.
Once a month I have the privilege of leading a Bible study at The Mansion at Rosemont (formerly Rosemont Presbyterian Village). The Bible study utilizes the Horizon’s Bible Study curriculum produced by Presbyterian Women, which this year is focusing on “celebrating Sabbath.” The author of the study, the Rev. Dr. Carol M. Bechtel, is intentional about the use of the word “celebrating.” She writes, “We talk about observing or keeping or honoring the Sabbath. But how often do we talk about celebrating the Sabbath?” She goes on to note that like our New Year’s resolutions, sometimes the Sabbath can feel like a lot of work, can feel like one more thing to do, rather than something that feeds our souls and nourishes us for the life of faith.
At the conclusion of the first lesson Dr. Bechtel suggests one baby step each of us can take to begin celebrating the Sabbath: “Just stop.” She goes on, “[just stop] may be the most important – and perhaps most difficult – thing you can do if you want to explore what it means to celebrate Sabbath. Just stop. The word ‘sabbath’ means ‘ceasing,’ after all.”
Perhaps a counterintuitive yet truly fulfilling New Year’s resolution is to “just stop.” To take a breath and take a break, to say “no” to some things so that you can truly say “yes” to the things that give you life. If your New Year’s resolution did not work, or if it did not bring the fulfilment you hoped it would, rather than simply trying again, or trying harder, perhaps this is an invitation to “just stop.”
 You can find the Horizon’s Bible Study online: