New Year’s Resolutions!
An article of 820 words
New Year’s resolutions!
I remember once reading an article in which the author (I think it was Miles Kington) said that he never made any New Year’s resolutions he might break, but only ones he couldn’t fail to keep. So every year on January 1st, he resolved never to speak fluent Norwegian in public! Some people always make New Year’s resolutions; mine is usually to lose some weight. And like almost everybody else, by about mid-February I’ve usually given up on it.
So is there any point in making New Year’s resolutions, or are people who make them on a hiding to nothing? The real problem is that they depend on willpower, and most of us fall into one of two categories – either we are distinctly lacking in willpower, and so resolutions are just setting us up for more failure and another guilt-trip. Or else we are rather good at keeping our resolutions, but along with that sense of success comes a temptation to superiority and pride.
Yet a new season is significant. In the Bible, God quite often announced the beginning of a new season. For example, “Do not cling to events of the past or dwell on what happened long ago. Watch for the new thing I am going to do. It is happening already – you can see it now! I will make a road through the wilderness and give you streams of water there.”1 Many of the Old Testament feasts marked the start of a new season. There is something spiritually significant and often deeply liberating about closing a door on the past – even a good or successful past – and turning towards a new beginning and an uncharted future. This is especially so if some significant change has taken place – whether that change is a positive one, like getting married or having a baby, or a difficult one like being widowed or divorced, or a mixed one like your youngest child leaving the nest.
So are New Year’s resolutions the way to mark this change of season and set out hopefully into the new one, or is there a better way? Norman Grubb’s secret of success lay in his daily prayer. Every morning on waking, He would say to God, “Good morning, Lord! What are You up to today? Can I be a part of it? May I? Thank You. Amen.”2
Perhaps a paraphrase of that might be a good way to mark the New Year. The old year is over. Whether it brought new heights of joy, new sorrows that led to a deepening relationship with God, or was simply an “annus horribilis” as Her Majesty once put it, too close to us as yet for us to see any good from it, the time has come to close the door on it. Something new is about to spring up. We have no idea what the New Year will bring. We might have an inkling of the direction it’s taking us in. We might have a strong sense of where we intend to go in it. We may have our plans, and they might be good ones. But have we stopped to ask God what He is going to be up to?
Once at church we were singing a song about the walls coming down, and I had a clear picture of a brick wall that had been between myself and God simply falling apart and lying in ruins on the ground, leaving God and me looking at each other across the boundary of the ruined wall. I very distinctly felt that God was saying to me, “Are you going to step across to My side, or do you want Me to come over to you?” “What’s the difference?” I enquired. “Well,” came the reply, “if I come over to your side, I will be with you wherever you go, I will bless whatever you do and whatever you put your hand to will prosper. If you come over to My side, you will be able to see what My plans are, the exciting things I’m going to do that you haven’t even dreamed of, and I will let you play a full part in bringing them about.” Without even a hint of a hesitation I saw myself scrambling over to His side of the wall.
So here’s what I’m going to be doing this New Year. I’m going to be asking, “What are You up to this year? Can I be a part of it? May I? Thank you.” And then I’m going to work on cultivating what one song calls “a will that leaps to obey You”3 so that whenever He says, “This is what I’m doing next” I’m there, ready and willing to play whatever part He has for me. Maybe that’s a New Year’s resolution of sorts. But if so, I’m going to be totally dependent on the Holy Spirit to help me keep it.
1 Isaiah 43.18-19, Good News translation
3 Teach me to dance, Graham Kendrick