‘Tis the season to set a resolution for the coming calendar year. Or not.
If you’re like me, your approach to fresh starts and checking off boxes to create new daily habits vacillates from enthusiasm to disdain, depending on the year. Sometimes there’s a practice I’ve been looking forward to making part of my routine, other times I’m in such a busy season I can’t imagine adding another item to my already overwhelming list. And yet other times — like this year — I’ve been conscious of a call to a certain spiritual practice but hesitant to start for fear of failure.
For months now, I’ve been aware of a call to spend more time with Scripture. I’ve been reading the next day’s Mass readings before bed for years, and that’s something I don’t intend to stop, probably ever. But it also means that the prospect of adding more Scripture reading into my day is daunting. I’ve been meaning/trying to make my way through the 90-day reading plan in the “Great Adventure Bible” for … more than 90 days.
My pre-summer plan was to finish that Bible plan as a refresher (I’ve worked through the DVD series twice and found it incredibly enriching), and then settle into the “Catholic Journaling Bible” I also have on my shelf. I don’t need to tell you that in this hemisphere, we are way beyond summer. Come to think of it, this piece might also have been called “So many Bibles, too little time.”
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Each time I set myself an end date for the reading plan, in the next breath I realize that something is going to get in the way — a family event, a project due in my grad class, any of the unknowns that come with raising five children. And that preemptive discouragement has, for too long, held me back from making any progress at all.
As I thought and prayed about what the Lord wanted for me in 2023, I recalled a line from the Litany of Trust: “From discouragement, Deliver me, Jesus.” What Christ wants is not my adherence to someone else’s reading plan — however wise and erudite that person might be — but my openness to relationship with him. Relationship is built on intention and commitment, not on unnecessary pressure and meaningless distress.
If the signs I was recognizing weren’t enough, I recently received a copy of Meg Hunter-Kilmer’s beautiful “A Year in the Word” journal, which is a 365-day reading plan with just enough journaling space for each day (you might imagine I can go on and on, given the space). Instantly I saw how well it pairs with the “Catholic Journaling Bible” that I still hadn’t decided how to approach.
I also realized that if I commit to the year-long reading plan, I will get interrupted and I will fall off track. It feels like only a matter of time. While I have been successful with a daily Pilates routine — missing no weekdays in the first year, and only three in the second — that commitment required less of me. It didn’t involve weekends, so breaks were built in, and sometimes I did the shortest routine possible in my program, which is all of four minutes. This would be different. This felt too big.
But again, that line from the Litany of Trust came to mind. This project might be too big for me on my own, but with God, nothing is too big, too unwieldy; nothing is impossible. And so I’m choosing a different track, one that’s more about grace than perfection, one that’s focused more on relationship than a checklist. This year — and next — I’m committing not to a New Year’s resolution, but to a two-year resolution. By the end of 2024, I will complete the 90-day plan and the 365-day plan.
With that margin, that breathing room, already I’m finding it easier to pick up my “Great Adventure Bible” where I left off. I won’t finish these 90 days before the ball drops to mark the start of 2023, but that doesn’t mean I need to wait until Jan. 1 to begin, either. And when I’ve completed that review of salvation history, I’ll pick up my “Catholic Journaling Bible” and “A Year with the Word” and steadily, though perhaps not daily, work through it. Some weeks, I will complete an entry a day. Other selections are going to take me two or three days. If I’m making the time to be still and in conversation with my Lord, either way is just fine.
I can’t know what these next two years will hold. I can, however, plan to make Scripture part of them with as much regularity as possible in my current state of life. I can surrender to the Lord and make an offering of my humility.
There is a part of me that thinks I ought to give myself less slack, that I should commit to every day and let other things fall to the wayside. But that part of me isn’t totally rooted in the right place. That part of me is trying to prove something — to God, to myself, or to you, reader, I’m not sure. What I do know is that that’s not what the Lord really wants from me or from you. God wants our hearts and our love, our minds and our worship. Even if you have discerned a resolution that fits neatly into the 365 days the year 2023 promises, let’s not forget that God’s timeline isn’t the same as ours.
This time of year, the priest at my church reminds us that we don’t know what the future holds, but we do know who holds the future. I’m looking forward to a future more firmly given over to his hands, his love, his mercy and his grace. May the Lord’s will be done in 2023, 2024 and beyond.