Auld lang syne… That’s a Scottish phrase that means “old long since” or “once upon a time”. It’s a way of introducing the things of the past. The New Year’s song that derives its namesake from this phrase assumes a wistful, nostalgic look on “auld lang syne”. I’m not so sure that’s the way people nowadays think of the year that’s just past.
In our cynical age, I see most people all too happy to slam the door on the past year while placing great expectations on the year to come. My thought has always been, How can you do that? How can you just sweep the past out the back door while predicting a rosy picture of the future? Didn’t you do that last year only to get the same result?
I guess that’s the reason I’m reluctant to set New Year’s resolutions. If I couldn’t or wouldn’t set and keep resolutions last week, what’s to say I’m going to be any more successful setting and keeping resolutions on January 1? January 1 is no different from June 18. It’s just another day. Now don’t get me wrong. I do set goals for myself and resolve to meet them. I’ve just learned that there’s no magic to January 1. The magic– the juice of a goal set and kept– is discipline, motivation and accountability. There’s no extra stock of those things on January 1!
Nevertheless, there is significance to January 1, 2013 being the beginning of a new year. It can be just as much a fresh slate as any other day, so why not? What can be different this year from the things of auld lang syne 2012?
There are things I’m going to leave behind in the darker, less dreamy shadows of auld lang syne, and things I will take up with greater resolve.
The Things I’m Leaving Behind in Auld Lang Syne
- cynicism- I’m done with negative, downcast attitudes, talk, and expectations. Enough whining and complaining about the people or situations I can’t change or the people and things I’m tempted to manipulatively change to the way I want. No more framing things in worst case scenarios. I’m going to shut off and ignore pessimistic, gossipy, slanderous talk. I’m not going to stoke up my self-esteem by criticizing and deflecting blame to others.
- anticipation– Good or bad anticipation is a crutch I don’t want or need anymore. Who can accurately predict the future? Pundits, weather forecasters, politicians, and doomsday prophets can’t do it. So why fool myself into thinking I’m any better? Instead of anticipating, I’m going to take things as the come, in the moment, one day at a time.
Jesus said, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? … Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:27,34)
- doubt- This would be doubt of myself, of God, and in those I love. Doubt can be an honest time of wrestling and deliberation. More often, doubt becomes a convenient escape. It’s a state of inertia. If I doubt myself, God, or others, I can stay where I am or retreat. But if I turn off doubt and turn on belief, I’m obliged to act on the best of myself, God, and others.
The Things of Greater Resolve
(No, I will not call them resolutions!)
- hope- Because God is God and is mysteriously immersed in all things to bring about his good and perfect will, there is goodness that can abound in and through all things. No one and nothing is God-forsaken. Therefore there is always room for God-sized potential and possibility. This calls for the patience to wait in hope (versus the cynicism of panicky, got-to-have-it-yesterday impatience). Look for the best and remain grateful for whatever good that comes.
- faith- This is trust, especially in the things I know to be true but can’t see right in front of my face. So, if I know that God loves me and is faithful, I’m going to trust in that reality, even if circumstances seem to dictate something completely different. (This is completely unscientific and foolishly irrational, I know. It’s also deeply human and divine– Christlike.) If I trust that my loved ones love and believe in me, even when this love isn’t perfectly manifested, then there’s no room to worry about that. In fact, there’s no room for worry, anxiety, or anticipation in the presence of faith.
- love– Unconditional love for God, for others, and for myself. Love intimately links me with God, with others, and myself with more than just sentiment or emotion. Love is my choice to bless and cherish God, others and myself. In the words of the Apostle Paul,
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Cor. 13:4-7)
I know all this sounds pretty highfalutin and overly idealistic. But these ideals become reality when I make the conscious decision to let go of the lesser things and live into the best things. It’s a steady-streamed progression of fits and starts, humbling victories and glorious failures. But it’s possible!
Faith, hope and love… All the makings of an excellent 2013!