New Year’s Resolution of 2014

New Year’s Resolution of 2014

Seven days in to 2014 it might seem a bit late to be talking about New Year’s resolutions but this is the first opportunity I have had so I make no apologies for it.

Some people sneer at New Year resolutions but I think that every now and then we need to take time to stand away from our lives, to look at them and to see what needs to be amended or worked upon. We do it during the Church seasons of Lent and Advent and it seems that as we say goodbye to the old year and hello to the new one we have another useful opportunity.

This year I have been greatly helped in my thinking by this poem of R S Thomas, which I had not come across before.


The new year brings the old resolve

To be brave, to be patient,

To suffer the betrayal of birth

Without flinching, without bitter

Words. The way in was hard;

The way out could be made

Easy, but one must not take

It; must await decay perhaps

Of the mind, certainly of the mind’s

Image of itself that it has

Projected. The bone aches, the blood

Limps like a cripple about the ruins

Of one’s body. Yet what are these

But the infirmities we share

with the creatures? It is the memories

That one has, the impenitent bungler

Of love, refusing for too long

To say ‘yes’ to that earlier gesture

Of love that had brought one

Forth; it is these, as they grow

Clearer with the telescoping

of the years, that constitute

for the beholder the true human pain.


This poem deserves to be meditated upon long and hard. It begins by calling forth in us the need for courage and patience as we continue our Christian journey. We have to face the bitterness and resentment we might feel because life hasn’t turned out as we planned or wanted, “the betrayal of birth.” We are invited to acknowledge full on the false self that has had such a grip on our lives (and continues to do so for most of us most of the time), “the certainty of the mind’s image of itself that it has projected.” We know that we have to meet the challenges of aging. But most of all this poem summons us, alongside RS Thomas, to see clearly how we have refused, “for too long to say ‘yes’ to that earlier gesture of love that brought us forth and continues to sustain us.” Longing to be in charge of our own lives, to be perfect (so that we have no need of God) and avoiding all that we cannot bear about ourselves, we have refused to acknowledge our dependence on that love which gave and gives us being, which knows and accepts us as we are.


This is a poem to pray with and to set up as a standard of measurement in this year. Can I be as honest, as brave and patient as this poem invites me to be in 2014? Do I dare to strip away the false self? May this be the year in which I recognise and learn to give thanks with joy to the love that brought me forth? I hope so.