I am rather proud of the fact that I do not make New Year’s resolutions. I suppose that is because there is nothing new about that which I wish to revise in my life. After a certain time (or at least the length of my life thus far!) one should have a fairly accurate understanding of what needs tending in one’s life.
Lest I be accused of ageism I am not saying that such things as New Year’s resolutions are exclusively the domain of the young. We should all be attentive to the prospect of making changes for the better in our makeup, one would hope. I am simply saying that as time goes on one would hope there would be fewer surprises as to what should be improved!
Each Sunday morning as I stand before our congregation I marvel at the words of our Collect for Purity. I have long since left my discomfort at its title and look into the hope-filled sentiments it embraces, the earnest character of its intent. In particular, the arresting words “Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit” wash over me like a breath of clean, fresh air. Its implication is so powerful and simple for me: we are invited to breathe in the Holy Spirit.
What further astounds me is that Cranmer’s translation of this ancient prayer is often followed by a quick breath in the congregation. The sentence structure includes a comma which itself implies a breath. So, as I stand and listen to the words rise from those gathered there often is an audible breath immediately following as we are all breathing in God’s Holy Spirit at that precise moment.
It may just be wishful thinking on the part of an often weary pastor but I am quite convinced that it does happen on occasion.
At such times I am reminded that the opportunity for us to amend things about us is as close to us as our next breath. Indeed the very nature of the expression “like a breath of fresh air” is at the heart of most desires for us to change for the better. It seems to me that rather grandiose attempts at amending our behaviour often lead to less than successful efforts. No, what is far more powerful to me, at least, is the humble reminder that turning things around and changing one’s mind about certain behaviours (dare I say repenting!) is better done on a much smaller scale: “Come on now, take a deep breath and start over.”
Not a lot of showiness about it, especially if we remind ourselves collectively each Sunday morning that that is what we really want – to improve things in us. The clincher is of course that we do not have to improve on our own. This new breath we take is prompted and fuelled by the Holy Spirit.
It is not a declaration of self effort, such as often happens at this particular time of year, but what I consider to be a sincere acknowledgment of what can and does happen when we ask for God’s help in amending our lives.
I do not think that should be left to just once a year, do you?