New Year’s resolutions are the province of the young. By my age we have leaned – often to our chagrin – that resolutions are much easier to make than keep. Basically you are not going to do what you are not inclined to do no matter how often you tell yourself to do it. Behaviour has to become habitual before change becomes permanent. We would save ourselves a lot of grief if we took a look at where we want the long term direction of our lives to go, rather than looking for quick fixes to sometimes intractable problems. In practical terms this means simply we need to reinforce our strengths and moderate our weaknesses.
My strength has always been my love of learning. God has made a marvellously complex and beautiful world. Mankind will never come to the end of discovering about it if we last a million years. I love discovering that world, either through literature, art, science, music, travel, or social interaction. An easy and productive resolution for me is to continue to learn throughout the coming year. I don’t need to worry about the specifics of that learning, since often that growth is organic rather than pre-planned. I might set out to learn Mandarin and find myself reading French instead. I might plan on developing music and find it is computer functions I spend most of my time with. I can’t really control all the specifics, since I have no idea what this year will bring. But I do intend to continue to learn at every available opportunity, and to continue to give deference to the One who enables that understanding. My resolution then is to spend less time in the coming year consuming, and more time creating, for that is the essence of learning.
My second resolution has to do with my weakness. I have a tendency to laziness. Nobody looking at me from the outside would suspect this, as I keep it well under control; but I assure you it is there. In order to moderate this weakness I need to more consistent in self-discipline. Again it really doesn’t matter how I discipline myself, only that I do so. I could say that I will get up at such a time and do this number of sit-ups to trim my flabby gut and strengthen my wimpy back, but that isn’t the measure of self-discipline. The measure is that I discipline myself in every aspect of my life from watching television to pausing for ten minutes every hour to stretch and unwind; to reading literature instead of pulp fiction; to leaving my room tidy instead of a disorganized mess. All of these things rebuke my sloth and train me to give a more careful account of my time to my Maker.
Now for the final resolution. As a Christian I understand that mankind in made in the image of God; that is to say he/she has mind, flesh and spirit. My first two resolutions speak to the mind and the flesh; the third must address the spiritual side of my nature. Again it is useful to look at the long term direction of your life; where you want to be at the end of it. Clearly, for a Christian, that goal is to be more like Christ. For me that means I need to be kinder and gentler; not just on others, but on myself as well. For this I need to call upon the Holy Spirit, for this is a deep work of the soul and will not be accomplished through human effort alone. Only God the Spirit can bring about spiritual change. For this I need to spend more time meditating on His word and praying in the spirit, which is what I plan to do in the coming year. And that is by far the most important resolution of all.