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A blank slate awaits you in 2019

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A fresh start. An opportunity to improve one’s quality of life. The chance for a measure of redemption in your most cherished relationships. Such are the challenges and hopes of a new year, yet untarnished by our human failings and sins.

It is estimated that about 40 percent of us will indulge in the annual exercise of making New Year’s resolutions. The rest of us will most likely determine to do better in the new year without committing to specifics due to past rates of failure when doing so. After all, we are just human.

You might be interested in knowing that the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions is more than 4,000 years old. This tradition dates all the way back to the Babylonian festival of Akitu, a 12-day celebration in which the Babylonians celebrated the rebirth of the natural world. During this time, they made promises to their gods and paid their debts. The Babylonians believed if they kept their promises to their gods, they would be blessed. If not, they would be cursed.

It was not until 153 B.C. that the Roman Empire declared Jan. 1 as the start of the new year ,which was to honor the Roman god Janus. This Roman god was said to have two faces that could look forward and backward at the same time. This was to symbolize the end of the previous year and the start of the new.

Similar to the Babylonians, the Romans made promises to Janus about their behavior for the coming year.

The Latin term tabula rasa, translated to English as blank slate, certainly describes the year before each of us. Yet unwritten on, untouched, pure, a blank page waiting for us to fill in with the lives we live, day-by-day.

In an article published by GoSkills titled, “Top Ten New Year’s Resolutions (and How to Follow Through on Them)” I found these resolutions most interesting.

1. Exercise more

2. Lose weight

3. Get organized

4. Learn a new skill or hobby

5. Live life to the fullest

6. Save more money/Spend less money

7. Quit smoking

8. Spend more time with family and friends

9. Travel more

10. Read more

Could it be that New Year’s resolutions are best expressed in the quote by Mark Twain? “Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I have done it thousands of times.”

Regardless of your decision to make or not to make New Year’s resolutions for 2019, we members of communities of faith have a higher calling, a higher standard to ponder as we face a “tabula rasa,” a fresh, pure, unlived year.

Will we recommit ourselves to more deeply seek to reflect the life and teachings of our Lord, the Prince of Peace? We are living in a nation divided by deep political philosophies spawning fear, mistrust, a resurgence of racism, and many Christians turning to the government for their best interests and causes.

Will we resolve anew to follow in the footsteps of our Master in peacemaking, in healing, in compassion, or will we continue to listen to the loud voices of division, fear and hate? What will your life write on this new blank tablet, this new year, 2019?

Edward “Ned” Walsh of Princeton is a retired Baptist denominational worker who served as executive director of Johnston County Habitat for Humanity from 2004-08.

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