Ideas for a clean heart, fresh start in 2020

“Lose 10 pounds.” “Get more rest.” “Stop snacking late at night.” “Go to the gym three times every week.” “Pray more.”

Like many of us, most of my New Year’s resolutions sounded like a laundry list of “fixer upper” prescriptions that would change my life, only to be abandoned midway through the year. Sound familiar?

At the heart of New Year’s resolutions is our desire for a reset as we often long for the ability to start over and begin again. New Year’s resolutions can help us to focus on areas of our lives in need of improvement and rejuvenation. But they have their limitations. Part of the failure of our resolutions is because we begin with the mindset of what “we” need to fix rather than inviting the Lord into our journey to ask for his guidance and help. We adopt a mindset of repair instead of exploring what needs to be embraced — in ourselves and others.

This year, instead of making and breaking New Year’s resolutions, how about giving yourself a fresh start by cultivating a clean heart so that you can embrace others and yourself more tenderly and lovingly?

Here are some ideas for a clean heart, fresh start:

Embrace the newness of each day
New beginnings are offered to us every year and indeed every day. St. Anthony of the Desert, whose memorial is Jan. 17, encourages us with the words, “Every day I say to myself, today I will begin.” We don’t have to wait until Jan. 1 to begin again, especially when it comes to repairing broken relationships or starting a healthy habit. You might think that you don’t “have the heart” to start over, but ask God to give you a clean heart when it comes to a particular situation or relationship.

Let God’s grace freshen your life
God has made all things new — including you. There is no experience in your life that can chain you to the past if you ask God to break the bonds of those chains and give you a fresh start. No matter what our past has been like, whether we feel inspired or just tired going into the New Year, we are offered a new beginning in God’s love for us. “Don’t forget that the saint is not the person who falls, but rather the one who never fails to get up again, humbly and with a holy stubbornness,” remarked St. Josemaria Escriva. God’s grace offers us a fresh start. He is able to inspire newness and freshness in our hearts, even when we are discouraged and alone.

It is never too late
It is never too late to start when it comes to your faith or when it comes to beginning a new habit, such as praying the Scriptures. Whether you go to Mass every week or once a year, have been a part of the church your whole life or have been away for 50 years, it is never too late to take a step toward God in faith. He is waiting for each one of us, his beloved children, to come home to him, one day at a time, one step at a time. In Zechariah 4:10 we are asked not to “despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” If you struggle, invite the Lord into your day by praying the simple prayer below:

Prayer for a Clean Heart, Fresh Start
God our Father,
Author of every new beginning and fresh start,
Grant me open ears to hear you,
Fresh eyes to see you,
Willing hands to serve you
And a clean heart and fresh start to love you.
I ask this in your son Jesus’ name, Amen.

As another year begins, how long will you consider it “new?” Will the promises you made to yourself and to God last for a week, a month or six months? Or will you embrace your desire for a clean heart, which truly brings a fresh start, not just today but every day?

Stanz is director of Parish Life and Evangelization for the Diocese of Green Bay. Her new book, “Start with Jesus: How Everyday Disciples Will Renew the Church,” is now available from Loyola Press.