By Amy McCollom
This year I do not vow to lose 20 pounds or go to the gym three times a week or start eating kale. I may, indeed, do all of those things, but I am not setting out this year making a goal of it. I do not like the idea of making big promises to yourself and the world because it is the time of year to do so. New Year’s resolutions seldom carry on past January 30th.
As you may know, I have been choosing with care, a word of the year that feels appropriate to encompass my life and goals for the new year. With prayer and intuition, a word comes to me.
In the past years, words such as refresh, release, calm, learn, teach, read, and humble have come alive in my life to help me and make me a better person. I trust that this year will carry the same benefit for me with my new word of the year. I believe it has already started, in fact.
My word of the year for 2021 is (drumroll) forgive.
Hang on, you’ll see where I’m going with this.
With birthdays come age, with age comes wisdom. On January 8th, both my husband and I have our birthday. My husband told me that his birthdays as he was growing up were still pretty special, even though they were just two weeks after Christmas. His mom and sisters always made his day feel special and made sure he had cake, ice cream, presents, and friends to help him celebrate.
My birthdays were not so happy. At Christmas time, my parents always made way too many sweets, and so we had old cookies, pies, cakes, and candies lying around the house for weeks. Nothing ever got wasted.
Then a week after Christmas, not only was it New Years, but that was also my little brother’s birthday. As the youngest child, and only boy, might I add, my brother was treated as a little prince on his birthday. He always had a special cake, party hats, horns, and at the stroke of midnight, we all shouted, “Happy Birthday!”
For years I thought New Years was all to celebrate his birthday, because that’s what my mom told us. “The whole world celebrates your brother’s birthday!” Hearing that every year from childhood, I was quite surprised to find out that New Years was really celebrating the changing of the calendar year. I don’t know for sure which story my brother chooses to believe to this day.
Exactly a week after New Years, it is my birthday on January 8th. My family was always so tired of celebrating, and so sick of sweets, and probably short of cash by then, that most of the time I didn’t even get my own new birthday cake. I have seen pictures of me blowing out candles on half-eaten birthday cakes that had belonged to my brother, and even remember one birthday when my dad put candles on an old blackberry cobbler and said, “There ya go, just as good as a cake, right?” It too, was half-eaten and on it’s last leg. My birthday gift, if I got one, would always be wrapped in Christmas paper. So, I have always felt left out and not special on my birthday. Certainly the whole world didn’t celebrate my birthday. My own family didn’t even put forth a good-faith effort to celebrate it. More than one year, they even forgot it completely. I know, waa, waa, waa.
But then, like I said, with age comes wisdom. And each year now, I have a word of the year to help me become a better me. And as I was thinking about my birthday this year, and John’s birthday, I started feeling the old twangs of discontent, but then the word came. Forgive. Ah, see. Out of nowhere, God got my attention. I didn’t close up the connection, I left it open. I said, “Why should I forgive, I was treated unfairly.” And I felt God say,
“Because you want me to forgive you.”
Then I felt the weight of years of bad birthdays lift a little bit. With God’s help, I plan to release the rest of the burdens of those memories and only keep the happy ones. Forgive. That is my goal for all of the heaviness in my life.
Another word worth mentioning that is connected to forgive is repent. I guess in a way, you cannot have one without the other. You may ask, what did I have to repent for having bad birthdays happen to me? I feel like I have to repent for holding a grudge about them. Holding grudges is wrong. It’s not a pleasant feeling and grudges hold you back from the good and freedom that is there for you.
Do the wise thing; search your heart for grudges, and get rid of them with repentance and forgiveness. You will feel light as a butterfly. It is just like setting down heavy luggage after carrying it for years. Start new, from today forward. Take my word for it. Repent and forgive.