I hate New Year’s resolutions.
I do. And I always tell myself I’m not doing them this year, and then I feel guilty and end up setting a few piddly ones. And you can guess how that usually goes.
But no matter what, a new year always gets me thinking about resolutions and goals and what I want to experience in the coming year. I consider the usual health measures, workouts, the ways to improve myself, my parenting, my husbanding, my work and life.
But this year, the turning of 2016 has me considering the irreplaceable preciousness of life. And all the ways I tend to miss it.
Maybe it’s because of all the challenges we’re facing just now. With all the sickness we’ve had and the bad weather and struggle all around us, it seems we’re being handed a bit of pain to slow us down, make us reckon with life a bit. We’re definitely getting a slow start on the new year.
And maybe that’s a good thing.
I know studies show it’s true: no struggle, no progress. And if everything was perfect right now, I might be racing through the days, missing the deeper significance of the opportunity before me. 2015 is gone. And this new year will never come again. Without some struggle to slow me down, would I appreciate the time I have to reflect and prepare properly?
Without trials and burdens would any of us realize how we need God?
Because we do. He’s the good, the truth, the beauty in all things. And yet, we so easily forget and get busy with plans.
This year, I want to do more than struggle with a few resolutions and track my progress toward the weekly goals I set. I want to start with what my better self wants–to think of someone besides myself, and what others need instead of what I want. Because I’ve lived enough New Year’s resolutions cycles now to know that even if my resolutions are purposeful and practical, they’ll mean nothing in the end if they aren’t first inspired by a visionary love beyond my own limited eyes.
This year, I want to resolve to set aside my selfish self for a higher purpose.
There’s an image in the middle of this video for Sara Groves’ song “I Saw What I Saw” where her friend gives his shirt to a Ugandan man. He helps him put it on and button it up like it’s a ceremonial moment, and it makes me wonder if maybe he’d planned to do it, or maybe it was something they were taught to do in his group. But maybe as the situation presented itself, maybe he suddenly realized he had worn two shirts that day. And then he looked around and saw everyone else barely had one good one on. And some had none at all. And I’d like to think he didn’t plan it, that it wasn’t a premeditated goal he’d set to do this as some sort of spiritual proving ground.
I hope it arose spontaneously from his resolve to be replaced by a love greater than himself.
And I guess at the start of this new year, what I really want is to be open and listening and ready to see what’s needed like he was.
To be replaced by something bigger, greater, more lasting than our own lives–who doesn’t long for this deep down? Immortality, ironically, is just as Jesus said: when we lay down our lives for the needy, the ones we’re here to love. Sure, I could ignore it, go on enjoying life and seeking my own gain like always. I could keep trying to improve my position and my resume, keep striving for bigger and better things. I could tell myself it was good stewardship to use what gifts God’s given me and deny how self-seeking my hopes and dreams still are.
Or I could resolve not to fall for that this year….
What if this year, we were to resolve not to pursue our own comfort and prosperity? What if we laid down our phony proposals to “sow our talents” into furthering our own reputations and being recognized, esteemed, respected and rewarded? And what if we resolved instead to stand with those around us who know something of suffering we don’t?
What if we asked God to show us who we might resolve to help each week of this new year? What surprising things might we find in our stockings come next Christmas?
When we can bear our own burdens, endure our own storms, and still bless others, we’ll know what it means to really live.
Oh, this old world–sometimes it breaks my heart and makes me feel like despairing. So many people struggling in the world and all around me, but their brave endurance asks, “What are you afraid of?” So many fighting pain and suffering, it shows me how little I know of true courage. So many showing love in the face of untold hardship, it rekindles a hope in me that I might know something more, something they somehow know, something of God in their hardship.
I know you feel this too. We all face struggles, but others face worse. There’s a fire inside you that wants to do something about it, waiting to be fanned into flame. There’s a voice beneath all the advice about what you should do and all the well-intentioned plans, a voice waiting to inspire something greater than any ordinary resolution could ever bring.
With all my heart, I pray you’ll follow that voice into this new year of blank days.
And when you do, I hope you’ll feel the thrill to give the very shirt off your back.