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It's the New Year. A fresh start. We make resolutions. We feel empowered to change our lives. We can create new selves. But what kind of new selves do we want to be?
With the coming of the new year we are bombarded with conflicting advice about just what new path we should take. On one hand our news feeds are filled with ways to become more spiritually centered and balanced. Yet in one click the next newsfeed entices us with promises of sleek bodies, corporate success, and filled closets. (If your closets are already filled, there is another new year’s promise regarding organization and simplification. Or a new home with a bigger closet.)
These seductive promises are schizophrenic and also incredibly ironic. We are living in a moment of history with the lowest participation in faith community and the largest waist lines. Ours newsfeeds know for what we yearn: spirituality and healthier bodies.
A year ago I saved an advertisement I received in the mail. It was a glossy invitation to attend the “Ultimate Wealth Summit.” Tom Brady was a featured speaker. Just what is an ultimate wealth summit? And why is it a summit instead of a conference? My guess is that summit sounds bigger or more important somehow. It made me laugh. And sorry Patriots fans, but what does Tom Brady have to teach me? I can't throw a football and I don’t want to. Sure he’s got some self-discipline, but from my vantage point, a man with an incredibly abnormal talent does not have much to teach me about success.
But I digress.
Here’s the best part about this SUMMIT. They had a congress of “National Achievers.” I couldn’t figure out from their website just what made the members of this congress national achievers, but I was pretty certain it had something to do with their bank accounts. They promised to teach attendees how to raise “the essential capital to fund your passion,” “multiply their income,” and create “a systemised wealth plan.” These were only steps to the ultimate goal: enjoying life. Which is apparently impossible without gobs of money.
I need to stop writing here so I can gag.
As I was pursuing pinterest, searching the best advice on just how to obtain that sleek body I most intensely yearn for after my Christmas butter consumption, somehow the wealth summit snuck into my feed. It promised a new year. A new path to wealth. Prestige. Esteem. Everything I had sought after achieved. Maybe if I attended, I too could be a member of the congress of national achievers.
Clearly, the pin didn’t seduce me, even if I would love to be wealthy and a nationally recognized achiever. Yet this string of thoughts made me question our national obsession with New Year’s itself and collective dreams of being more spiritually centered, successful, balanced, organized, skinnier, wealthier . . . What if instead this year I didn’t seek after any promise? What if this year instead I gathered with regular old folks at a home, not a summit, and we decided we would be community? What if we decided we didn’t need to create a congress of national achievers, or a seven point plan on how to become that thing--wealthier, skinnier, better-- and instead we supported one another in our earnest, faith-filled, stumbling endeavors to be kinder? And then I remembered: I already do that! My New Year’s resolution is complete. I just need to continue to gather with the folks at Grace and Stratford Street. They expect nothing of me. They just desire my company, as I desire theirs.
New Year’s can be a good time for assessment--where we are in life, where we’re going, where we would like to go. It can also be an opportunity to assess where all those little voices in our head come from, the voices that tell us we’re not good enough, but that this product can make us better. But wouldn’t it be best, wouldn’t we thrive more, if instead we joined a community that told us we were already good enough? That we were already better than we could possibly imagine, that we were already beloved--by God? That’s what faith communities do. Now, if we can only listen to them, and tune out all the voices that tell us we’re not good enough. Because we are good enough, because God delights in us, right now, as we are.
Rev. Abigail A Henrich (ehm!) is an ordained minister who earned her stripes at Princeton Theological Seminary and Colgate University. That said, Abby is really a mother-pastor-spouse who lives in a kinetic state of chaos as she moves from her many vocations: folding laundry, preaching, returning phone calls, sorting lunch boxes, answering e-mails, and occasionally thinking deep thoughts in the shower. Unabashedly she is a progressive Christian who believes some shaking up has got to happen in the church.