By Pastor Devin Strong, Spirit of Peace Lutheran Church.
I usually experience a sort of “push-pull” as the new year approaches — especially this year, considering 2020 had practically become a swear word! In our culture, ringing in the New Year means two things: a night to celebrate into the wee hours and a chance to make personal, annual resolutions.
We all appreciate the chance to start over with a clean slate every now and then, and there’s nothing wrong with the desire to grow as a person. However, as a Christian, resolutions can be a struggle -- knowing we cannot save ourselves and we’re meant to celebrate God’s grace all year! A quick search of the Internet reveals the five most popular beginning- of-the-year commitments: 1. Spend more time with family and friends 2. Exercise more 3. Lose weight 4. Quick Smoking 5. Reduce stress All well and good, but personally, the whole practice of New Year’s resolutions strikes me as profoundly ungracious.
We know what happens, especially with resolutions 2 through 5. We start out gung-ho for the first few days, and we feel great! By mid-January, keeping those promises starts to get tougher, so maybe we cheat just a little. We pull the covers over our head instead of taking that early morning run or convince ourselves that one small slice of cake won’t hurt, promising to “be better” tomorrow. Maybe that works for a while but, by the time January rolls into February, most of us have abandoned our New Year’s Resolutions all together. We still have the same challenges we had when the old year ended only now, on top of everything else, we’ve added guilt for not having enough will power to keep our resolutions! This is simply not a very gracious way to treat ourselves.
But let’s be optimistic and assume that you’re among the dedicated few who can keep your self-promises for an extended period of time. If you do manage to shed those unwanted pounds or put the cigarettes away for good, will you thank God for giving you the strength to do so, or will you be more likely to credit yourself? If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably take most of the credit, and God will be an afterthought, at best. Not a particularly faith-centered way to live!
As people of faith, the most life-giving thing any of us can do this year isn’t 50 daily sit-ups, losing those extra pounds, cleaning out the garage, or having a weekly lunch with our best friend.
The very best thing that we can do for our physical, emotional and spiritual health is to tune into God’s agenda for us and allow the rest to follow suit.
No one needs another do-it-yourself project or something else to feel guilty about! The best resolution we can make is to become more conscious of the fact that we all live by grace.
Our jobs are therefore to be grateful for who we are and all we have, and to share our gifts with others the best we can.
I suggest starting your day with a morning offering – asking for eyes to see what God sees, a heart to feel what God feels, and for help not to duck! I’m convinced that if we immerse ourselves in God’s delight and plans for us, our addictions, bad habits, and desires for positive change will take care of themselves.
God Loves You, and So Do I!