Friday, January 2, 2009

January can be a "trying" time

By R.D. Hohenfeldt
Managing Editor, Ozarks Almanac

How many of you have started reading the book of Genesis this month? I’ll bet a bunch of you well-meaning Christians have resolved to read the whole Bible through this year. Let me prophesy something: Most of you will quit before the month is over. In fact, I’d venture to say some of you have already quit.

Now, far be it from me to criticize you for quitting, and I’m certainly not judging you. No, sir and ma’am, that prophecy comes from experience.

Yea, verily, I have probably read the first five or six chapters of Genesis more than any other chapters in the The Good Book, except maybe The Gospel According to Matthew.

One December in the newsroom of the newspaper where I once labored, I “rared” back, closed my eyes and loudly and boldly declared, “Beginning January 1 and continuing until December 31 of next year, I will, I say, I WILL, read the entire Bible, the whole Merriam-Webster Dictionary and the complete works of Shakespeare, including his sonnets.”

That pronouncement was met with laughter, of course, and rightly so, it turned out. In that January, as I recall, I read a few chapters of Genesis (once again), a couple of pages of the dictionary and nary a bit of The Bard.

January is the traditional time to try to make some improvements in our lives, such as being a better Christian, a better speller and a better student of literature.

About a week before Christmas each year, I start looking forward to the New Year, thinking of it as an opportunity for a clean sweep, another chance to do better, a time of hope to reach new goals. After the glorious holiday, I spend the week until New Year’s Day thinking of what I want to do to make the following year the best ever year of my life. I resolve. I set goals. I list things.

It’s the follow-through that’s always the problem for me. I don’t know what happens, but I’m soon sidetracked from working on my goals. Things come up. Needs arise. My attention is diverted.

Will I ever change? Will I ever read the dictionary? Will I ever read all of Shakespeare? Will I ever read the Bible through?

A psychology professor once told us you predict future behavior by looking at past behavior, so I’d say the answer to those questions can be summed up in one word: No.

Nevertheless, my past behavior indicates that I will keep resolving to do better. I’ll continue setting goals. I’ll always list things I want to get done.

Well, I take a little solace in knowing at least that I’ll keep hoping. That’s better than giving up and doing nothing, isn’t it?

So, if you’ve already given up on Genesis and/or Matthew, join me as we “rare” back, close our eyes and loudly and boldly declare, “Well, at least we tried – for awhile.”

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