I know we are well into January, but I’d like to talk about New Year’s resolutions.
I don’t know about you, but I always feel a lot of pressure around New Years. I feel like I’m supposed to come up with some grand goal and then be on the perfect path to achieving that goal as soon as January makes its midnight debut. In spite of the pressure, it’s tempting to make these glittering promises of self-improvement to myself, because such promises look and feel really good. They’re pretty, shiny pledges and I’m convinced I will look so good wearing them to the ball, or rather, as I watch the ball drop. But if I’m honest, I usually decide to pull a Cinderella and run out the door before the clock strikes twelve. Each retreating foot step seems to shriek: “Just kidding! I can’t handle any big life changes right now! I’m still recovering from Christmas! Even little changes feel huge these days! Maybe next year!”
I’m not sharing this to be self-deprecating or to pooh-pooh New Year’s resolutions. They really seem to work for some people and that’s wonderful. But what I keep realizing is that we can’t plunge into a meaningful life shift without being ready. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is. We have to be truly ready. And the only way to get ready is to identify what we need spiritually. If we’re not prepared to make spiritual improvements, we won’t see any natural world results. For example, if we want to commit to eating better in the new year, we might first need to really face the fact that junk food has become a false god in our lives. It’s not enough to stock the fridge with celery. We must first acknowledging the spiritual issue at stake or we are setting ourselves up to trip up on the next powdered donut that crosses our path.
As I was reflecting on why I so often fail to see resolutions through (both in the New Year and in general), it occurred to me that maybe I just need to shift the way I think of the term “resolution.” Rather than thinking of a resolution as solemn resolve to make a big change, what if we think of it as simply seeking clarity? After all, when we talk about resolution on TV screens or photos, we’re describing how clear the picture is. What if we just focus on really identifying the stubborn little roots that inhibit positive changes in ourselves? What if we spend our energy praying and honestly searching for whatever it is that’s at the crux of our hang ups?
It’s not like finding clarity is any easier than walking 10,000 steps a day. It’s probably a lot harder. But the Lord is so undeniably present in the process of finding core truths about ourselves. We can’t ignore that we need Him in our spiritual development. Looking for this admittedly harsh clarity invites the Lord to walk the difficult path of change with us. And He can be far kinder to us than we are to ourselves as we navigate the obstacles on our way. He grants us countless false starts. He allows as to backtrack. He forgives our broken promises, both to ourselves and to Him. He helps us up when we trip. He is always right with us, gently nudging us to try again. He never gives up on us.
So this year, I invite you to join me in praying for clarity, for “higher resolutions,” if you will. I pray that we can honestly and humbly open ourselves up to the spiritual shifts we need to make in order to make other more worldly changes down the road.
Open my eyes, that I may see
Wondrous things from Your law.
Psalm 119: 18