“I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will give you counsel and watch over you.” Psalm 32:8 (Berean Study Bible)
January can be a flat month after the celebrations of Christmas and New Year. Reality sets in and, after the holiday, it's time to get back to ‘normal’ life. Some people set themselves challenges in making New Year Resolutions. Others embrace the New Year and are glad to leave the last one behind. A New Year brings mixed feelings for all of us; perhaps anxiety over how we will cope or what may happen in the year ahead. We may have health and financial worries, work and family concerns. We may start the New Year with hope in the possibility of change, which quickly turns to despair in the realisation that nothing has changed. Our thought patterns, attitudes and outlook on life have a large part to play in how we view this year. We may have grown up feeling a certain way about ourselves, believing certain things about ourselves. We fall into habitual ways of viewing ourselves and the world around us, according to our nature and how we were nurtured. This can affect how we ‘react’ to other people and life in general. For example: because of the way we feel about ourselves and perceive others, we may be hurt or angry at a comment someone innocently makes who had no intention of offending us. If no-one ever praised us when we were children, then anyone who praises us in adulthood is likely to be viewed with suspicion, misbelieved or even mistrusted. If promises of something nice were made and then broken, we may grow up never expecting anything good to ever happen to us. As we grow and life deals its cards at us we get stuck in a rut, we repeat familiar patterns, we tread the same path, we walk the same road again and again. ‘I must be to blame’. ‘Everyone else is to blame’. ‘Why am I always the odd one out?’. ‘Why does no-one care about me?’ ‘I’ll show them whose boss around here’. Eventually these become our ‘way of being’, our ‘security’ and our defence against an ambivalent world and its people.
It takes great courage and insight to stop going down the same old road and falling into the same old pit. It takes a lot of effort to change direction and, when the pressure is on, the old familiar roads are often the easiest route to take. Going down a different road to the one we have become accustomed to all our lives is never going to be comfortable, trouble-free, or simple. It will take time. But a new road often leads to a different view and is worth pursuing. I came across the following poem by Portia Nelson which perhaps symbolises that discussed above:
1) I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk I fall in. I am lost... I am hopeless. It isn't my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.
2) I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don't see it. I fall in again. I can't believe I'm in the same place. But it isn't my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.
3) I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in ... it's a habit. My eyes are open; I know where I am; It is my fault. I get out immediately.
4) I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.
5) I walk down another street.”
(‘Autobiography in Five Short Chapters’, Portia Nelson)