COVER STORY – NEW YEAR
Sometimes more is less and less is more. Consider the word resolve. The word mostly conjures up positive images. To resolve is to make a firm commitment to fix a problem or to fill a deficiency. From the same Latin root comes our word resolute—also basically positive. Someone who is resolute is determined and focused. Yet it all seems to fall apart when we lengthen the word to resolution, especially when we add “New Year’s” to it. The whole concept of “resolve” and “resolute” just seems to fade to nothing when we talk about “New Year’s resolutions,” which are more like political promises than firm commitments. No one really expects anyone to actually keep New Year’s resolutions. There’s routinely no true resolve there. And sometimes that’s a good thing.
I once watched a bird try to fly into our living room. The little guy had way more resolve than intellect. The problem was the clean window that he just couldn’t seem to figure out. Over and over again he would throw himself at the window, only to be met each time with an invisible barrier and a sickening thud. From time to time he would pause as if to consider the prize, each time evidently determining that our living room was just about the greatest place he could imagine, and that entrance thereto was well worth the pain and effort.
The problem, of course, was more than just the window. Had the little guy actually achieved his goal, his life would have been instantly and immeasurably worse. We had no desire to have our living room redecorated in white. The window, which he no doubt regarded as his enemy and the source of his frustration, was actually his best friend.
The whole episode made me wonder if that is how our God sees us on a fairly regular basis. We beat ourselves up for that which, if we actually achieved the goal or gained the prize, would leave us dramatically worse off than we were before. Think lottery here (or any accumulation of great wealth), fame, power, desirability, and the like. The question is not so much where we want to go, but rather, why we want to get there.
Take, for example, one of the more popular New Year’s resolutions: weight loss. Not necessarily a bad goal in and of itself, but why? Personal vanity, or good health? To ask it another way, how many people do you know who do the right thing for the right reason? The “right reason” for everything that we do should be self-evident to all Christians. Whether we eat or drink—or whatever we do—all is supposed to be done to the glory of God. And only God.
The problem then is often
not the “what” but the “why.”
Good health enables us to serve our God better and longer. Self-discipline is, in itself, a witness and testament that reflects positively on the God that we serve; on the God that gave His most precious Possession to pay our sin debt.
Making resolutions can be positive, but only if we have our “why’s” in order. The beginning of another calendar year is as good a time as any, but this year consider adding some brutally honest evaluation to the process. Ask yourself how many of your ongoing resolutions are causing you such frustration simply because your Heavenly Father knows that your goals seek your own glory rather than His. Think back to that dim-witted little bird and ask yourself, “Is that me? Is that what I’m doing? Is that how my Father sees me? Is God Himself the pane of glass that I am wrongly characterizing as my great source of frustration?” Your Heavenly Father does not leave such questions unanswered. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33 ESV)
Michael Roehl is pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Bismarck, North Dakota.