Another year and sprung into being. In some way it is simply the passing of time over the border of another year. In another sense we measure time in units that make them significant. So we share this experience this passage of time as the New Year!
January, most scholars agree, is named after the Roman god Janus. Janus had two faces, one looking back and one looking forward. This practice of taking time to reevaluate and look back over our lives is actually an ancient practice that reflects the human desire to find significance, value, and purpose in what we do and who we are.
As Christians, we understand that our significance, value, and purpose does not live within us or our accomplishments but in the person, work, and atonement of Jesus. Still, we find ourselves at the beginning of the year wanting to conduct ourselves in a way that positions us for growth and self-improvement. This is many times expressed through the establishment of New Year’s resolutions.
It is not a mystery to say that most resolutions don’t work. I’m not saying we shouldn’t set them but I am suggesting that Christians should approach New Year’s resolutions differently.
First, we should not have resolutions because we wish to add significance, value, and purpose to our lives. If those issues are ones that are not settled for you, the true solution to these problems lie in your relationship with Jesus. You need to know him better, to seek after him and saturate yourself in the Bible. You would do much better to apply yourself to establishing what John Wesley called “the means of grace,” in your life. Regular Bible study, fasting, solitude, meditation, study, prayer and intentional community can help you uncover the significance, value, and purpose that Christ has given you. You already have it, but you forget or you have never fully grasped your status as a child of God.
Second, with this firmly rooted in your spirit you can then look to make small changes in your life that would help you be more productive, more peaceful, more loving, more joyful. It is these activities that will help you define the sharper edges of your calling. These activities are the ones that will grow you into the person God is calling you to be.
Third, most resolutions are just plain unrealistic. We so easily overestimate the establishing of nonexistent habits.
For instance, if we want to start going to the gym three times a week, but we don’t even own a pair of gym shoes, we are far enough removed from the establishment of this habit that intermediate transitional activities need to be established first -- having a wardrobe for working out, having an exercise plan, having a specific time of day to visit the gym, belonging to a gym, etc.
Fourth, many resolutions are done in isolation and do not leverage the community around us. It may be good to think through each of the things we want to do and resolve to put at the top of the to-do list, “find some friends that want to do this with me.” The power of community and camaraderie is often woefully underestimated. We see things as our job and our job alone. One part of our discipleship to Jesus is to live in community, to be growing disciples whose discipleship is kept in trust with one another. Shouldn’t making resolutions follow the same course of action?
Looking back is helpful and we should do it. Looking forward is helpful, inspiring, and helps us plan. Rather than make resolutions perhaps we should just decide the one thing we need to do to be more like Jesus and then pursue that. Pursuing that one thing in community and single-mindedly devoting ourselves to that goal seems like a much more worthy goal to me.