Monday, January 4, 2010
Getting Lighter in the New Year
As in previous years, the #1 New Year’s resolution is (you guessed it) to lose weight. Exercising regularly is a close second with quitting smoking in third place. The fact that losing weight/going on a diet has been at the top of New Year’s resolution lists ever since I can remember is a testimony to the weakness of our resolve.
Or maybe the reason losing weight is our top priority is that New Year’s follows the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, where overindulgence at the dining table is a national tradition.
I like how W.H. Auden put it in his long poem, For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio: “There are enough leftovers to do, warmed up, for the rest of the week/Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,/Stayed up so late, attempted—quite unsuccessfully--/To love all of our relatives, and in general/Grossly overestimated our powers.”
Even though it is good and healthy to not be overweight, I’d like to suggest we try a different kind of New Year’s resolution, a spiritual resolution if you will: to go on a “spiritual diet”.
What I am suggesting is that we take some time early in 2010 to examine the state of our souls and recognize what we need to lose or shed.
For instance, many of us are weighed down with worries and anxiety about the future, our own and the future of the world. The weight of these concerns can be crushing.
Is it possible to shed some of the weight of worry and anxiety? If we could learn to trust in God’s grace and love, perhaps we would worry less about the future. If we could let go of our worries by placing them in God’s hands, I’ll bet we’d feel lighter, and happier.
Others of us are weighed down with the affliction of “too much.” We can easily accumulate too much of, well, nearly everything: clothes, wine, jewelry, shoes, and (yes) even money. The cure for this affliction is to go on a different kind of diet in which we give away those things we don’t use or need to those who really need them.
The result of lightening up in the area of possessions is that we can travel through this world lighter—and freer. The real problem with too many possessions is that they end up possessing us. Taking care of our growing number of possessions ends up taking too much of our time and energy.
Another excess weight we carry is the weight of feeling as if we need to have control over everything. You’ve likely heard the expression “he’s carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.” When you think about it, it’s pretty narcissistic to believe that we can even come close to being in control over everything in our lives.
What if we could relinquish our need to control everything? What if we could let go of the illusion that everything depends upon our efforts alone? Again, if we could learn to turn over our need to control things to God, our burdens would be so much lighter.
So, let us resolve in 2010 to go on a spiritual diet of shedding worries, giving away unneeded possessions, and letting go of our need to control everything. If committed ourselves to losing this spiritual weight, our lives would be so much lighter and happier.