With the arrival of a new year, many people find themselves reflecting over the past year and making goals and resolutions for the year to come. I’ll be honest with you, I’ve never made a new year’s resolution in my life. I think I asked my dad once, why we didn’t make new year’s resolutions. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but it was probably how new year’s resolutions are rarely kept. They’re made with all the best intentions, but it doesn’t take long for even the best of intentions to weary and fade.
Although my parents never encouraged me to make new year’s resolutions, I believe they taught me something much more valuable than writing a goal on paper…
As I approach the end of this year, I remain thankful for the mindset and example given by my parents. I was raised with almost a reverence of the new year. Rather than partying or watching the ball drop, my father treated New Year’s Eve as a very special day of rest and reflection. It was spent at home, in the close comfort of family. My brother, sister and I would be allowed to stay up late. Mom would have crackers, cheese, and smoked sausage out for us to munch on, along with oranges and apples and hot apple cider. We’d play games together or watch a family movie to pass the time. We were all very aware, as the evening wore on, of the approaching hour of midnight. Finally, about 30 minutes before midnight, Dad would gather us all in the living room where each of us would find a spot to kneel next to the couch or chair. There, we learned to approach the New Year with an attitude of reverence and reflection.
There was never any fussing or mumbling about it, we prayed in our own way until the clock was past midnight then quietly snuck off to our rooms to read or sleep. How long my parents continued to pray, I don’t know, but they remained long after my siblings and I.
I remember Dad talking to us, explaining why we chose to do it this way. He always wanted us to understand why and spent as much time as was needed sharing his reasoning with us and answering our questions. He always said that “what you do on the last day of the year is what you will do the whole of the next year.” So we prayed together. Growing up, I was proud of this tradition we shared and I admit, I still am. So much so, that in the years in which I wasn’t able to be home, I would always find a quiet place to pray before the clock struck midnight and the new year began.
I remember one year in particular, I was with a small group of girlfriends and at the young age of 18 we found ourselves out running around much later than we expected. I was nervously watching the clock in the car and realized we weren’t going to make it back to the house by midnight. Finally, I turned to my friends and asked them if we could stop the car and pray the new year in together. To my relief, they agreed with enthusiasm. So, in the middle of nowhere we found a small country church with their lights on and we parked the car. We did our best to form a circle and one by one we began to pray out loud. If you had been there with us, it would have felt like only 10, maybe 15 minutes had passed. You can imagine our surprise when, after the final voice had uttered ‘amen’, we saw that the clock read past 1 am.
I can’t fully describe what happened in that hour, but I can tell you that our voices gave one another strength to continue praying. There’s something to be said for a prayer uttered out loud. I do believe the Lord hears the desires of your heart and knows your thoughts, but I also believe there is power in the spoken Word. That night, an hour passed as though it was but a moment. I think, we all grew up…just a little that night.
I always look forward to New Year’s Eve. Not for the parties and not for the games. But for that sweet hour of prayer in which the year changes from the past to the next. Everything gets laid out and brought before the Lord and we commit our hearts yet again to Him. Yes, I do pray every night, but this tradition is very special to me. Perhaps it can’t be explained in a way that everyone can understand. But its special, nonetheless.