A new year usually means a fresh plan. It means another try at the life we want to live. It means opening up to possibilities—to forward movement, to adjusting old ways to work better. A new year reminds us that the Holy Spirit is always moving, working among us, and leading us to the next good step.
However, we cannot respond fully to such guidance and holy inspiration until we are free to do so.
- I might be free if I’m enthusiastic about change and renewed efforts.
- I might be un-free if my movement toward change is sluggish.
- I might be free if I can focus on the next step.
- I might be un-free if I keep getting distracted by past mistakes and struggles.
- I might be free if I expect good outcomes.
- I might be un-free if I notice that my attitude is negative and cynical, or fearful.
- I might be free if I can find the time and space to make changes and step forward.
- I might be un-free if my life is too cluttered to make room for anything new or revised.
If you discern that you are not free to move forward, try a process like this:
Do a prayerful review of the past year. Don’t spend so much time on this review that you’re inundated with too many details that aren’t essential. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring to the surface the memories, concerns, sin, or fears that are shutting down your progress. Make a few notes as you pray.
- Matters for which you need to ask God’s forgiveness.
- Matters for which you need to ask another person’s forgiveness.
Perhaps you don’t see a specific sin that requires forgiveness but you do see an issue that bears discussion, a clearing of the air—whether with God or with another person.
- What you perceive to be failures on your part. Now is not the time to pick apart the failures and analyze what you should have done. Simply say, “I could have done better here.”
- Then release the failure with this statement, written or spoken: “I’m letting go of this because I can’t undo it. I choose to shift my focus to the next good thing to do, but even that is a decision for another day.”
- Significant fears and anxieties. Name them as best you can. Write them down, if that helps.
- Then pray over each one something like this: “God, you know how I fear _________. Show me the next step for dealing with this fear. I know that if I receive your love, there won’t be room for fear. This is what I want.”
You might create a little ritual for letting go of these troublesome parts of the past year. Write them down on pieces of paper and burn them. Or speak them to God, opening your hands and arms to let go of them as you do so. Or for each issue, choose a small stone, and as you give it to God, throw the stone into a body of water, down a hill, over a cliff, or even across the road.
With God’s help, let go of the past. Soon, you’ll be ready for the future.