I know I am bit late on the resolution bandwagon. In fact, I think I have missed it all together. Usually I have a goal for the next year by November. The past few months there has been so much happening that New Year’s caught me by surprise—and now 2 weeks later I am still pondering what I hope this year will hold. My list typically is based on bettering myself or my life. I plan on eating loads of greens things, loving my family perfectly, learning to bake the world’s best snickerdoodles (which counteracts resolution #1), swearing off TV or reading some outrageous number of books. As I reflect on the resolutions I have made in the past I notice one trend: they are entirely self-centered.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe in a certain amount of self improvement (I mean, I am a counselor for Pete’s sake). I just don’t know if that is what I should devote my year to pursuing. We look into the new year with hopes and dreams and longings. We have the chance to envision a better future, a better world, a better us. But I have to admit, I usually only envision a better me.
Resolutions draw out a deep sense of longing in me. I want to be better, different, other. I want to accomplish great things. I want to be beautiful and gain praise, as well as feel proud of who I am becoming. The attributes I strive for on a good day include not only poise and health, but love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Ring any bells?
Why, hello, Holy Spirit.
I find that the tradition our culture embraces twists the spirit’s longings in us. God tells us that in him we have all these attributes. The gift of the Spirit enables us to be incredible human beings, people living out Christ’s life in this world. So why do we keep resolving to be better people, different and other?
I think it is because we confuse “self” with “god”. It’s the oldest story in the book. No, really—Adam and Eve—its the oldest story in the bible (Alastair interjected to note that historically Job is the oldest story in the Bible). Two perfect human beings who strive for something better, different, other. They want to be “like God”. Does this not cause an eerie sense of deja vu for you? “If I eat this apple, I will be better” is now articulated “If I accomplish my resolutions …”
When I am striving to be better, different and other—am I not striving for something that defines God? The word holy can mean not only pure but something that is completely set apart, different, other. New Year’s resolutions, in my opinion, draw out our longing for holiness, to be set apart, to be like God.
Here is the problem. We try to attain it. We try to work for it. It is a lot of pressure—trying to be like God. And we pour out a lot of blood, sweat, tears, time, and energy into this pursuit. We chase after the qualities of God for our own betterment, for our own self- esteem boost. I will resolve myself to be better, do better. I will control myself and resist that temptation. I will white knuckle it and make it through. And we fail. Again and again. I cannot remember a single resolution I successfully completed. I think this is because I am trying to be better for my own sake and in my own strength. Being better is God’s work. It is in his strength and for his glory. Any other way leads to legalism, pride and failure.
Back to Adam and Eve. Don’t you just want to shake them? Don’t you just want to scream, “No, can’t you see you? You are perfect just the way you are!” Don’t you want to insert yourself into the story and talk them down? “God loves you. You get to live in bliss with his care and love. You have everything you could ever need. God walks with you in the garden. His presence never leaves you …” There is so much I want to say to Adam, to Eve.
And there is so much I want to say to you. Do you not know, that because of Christ, we are now in the promised unconditional love and care of our Father forever? Do you not know he will provide for you everything you need? Do you not know his presence will never leave you? Do you not know he is fighting for you, working out good things for you, working to perfect you?
Why are we putting so much pressure on ourselves to be different? Why are we spending money on beauty treatments, gym memberships, self-improvement books, new stuff? Are we that unsatisfied in what God has promised us? Are we that insecure in the work he has already accomplished for us in Christ? God is resolved to us more than we are to him.
Be secure in Him first. Trust in God’s work, faithfulness, timing, and love. Anything beyond that is for his glory. If he calls to confess your sin, to change- do it. But do it with his strength and for his glory. Do it humbly. Jesus in response to being called “good” says, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except the Father.” Even Jesus knew that his life was covered in the goodness of God. None of us are good without his grace, mercy and righteousness.
Do not let resolutions trip you up. Do not get caught in the age old trap of trying to be better, different and other. Instead of trying to be like God, let’s enjoy him. Let’s delight in his holiness, love and grace. He has made it all available to us through Christ. You do not have to work for it anymore.