Happy New Year!
I was recently asked by a Facebook Friend how many New Year's resolutions I was planning on making for this year. I replied by saying I wasn't making any, and furthermore, I didn't, as a general rule.
He seemed enough taken aback by this to make me think that New Year's resolutions are standard practice for him, his family and the people he frequents. I'm not sure they are for mine. Then he said I should blog about this.
I'm a little nervous to do so, because I'm not sure it's possible to argue either side of this debate without sounding sanctimonious, especially if you have a faith tradition underpinning the whys and wherefores of your everyday (or every year) practice. In reality, I think the making or disdaining of New Year's resolutions has more to do with personality than divine or moral mandate, but I don't know if anyone can really talk about it from a purely detached point of view. (I think plenty of people, both the resolution-makers and those who don't, can not-care one way or other if other people make them or not, but I'm not sure, if asked to defend their reasons for one course of action or the other, they could be entirely dispassionate.)
As I say, I think the real reason I don't make resolutions is that I don't really have the personality for it. I don't actively resist it. I just don't think about it. Or, maybe, care about it. But, imagining this as a Christian-liberal-arts-college exam essay question ("Do you think Christians should make New Year's resolutions? Use Biblical evidence to support your conclusions"), I would have to say Micah 6.8.
Actually, first of all, I would say I don't see people making resolutions in the Bible. People repent and "rend their garments" and put on "sackcloth and ashes." People get talked to by blazing shrubbery and heavenly lights. People even get talked to by each other. I just don't see people making lists of long-term decisions of how to better their lives.
Don't get me wrong. I don't think I personally have achieved perfection. (You might be relieved to know that I am aware of this). And I think the "little" things (taking care of one's body by eating right and exercising, say) are important. But my greater discipline in exercising this year wasn't because I wrote down, "I will exercise more this year," or even because I clenched my fists, squinted my eyes shut, concentrated really hard and said, "I will exercise more this year!" (Trust me--I had kind of been doing the latter for about 7 years, with little effect.) It was because my job situation changed, my schedule stabilised, and I no longer had an excuse not to exercise.
Resolutions may not have this effect on everybody, but what they usually do to me is make me feel guilty and resentful, or even rebellious. They make me focus on a thing, an action, even a state of mind, when my focus should be on Jesus and letting Him make me the person He wants me to be. Even if the things themselves are godly, once I put them into a resolution, I end up focusing on the thing and on my own efforts to achieve it, when, if it's really valuable, I'm not going to be able to achieve it without Him. I'm not advocating sitting around and waiting for the Holy Spirit to zap me with "godly-juice." I do agree that we have to be cooperating with the Spirit's work in us. But Jesus, talking about His Spirit, said that the wind blows where it will, and I don't ever know what God's going to want to work on in me next.
This is what I do know, and this is what I want my life to do: in Micah 6.8, the prophet tells people that all God wants of us is to do what is right, to be merciful, and to walk humbly with Him. I'd say that pretty much covers all the bases. I'd say I have a long way to go to get anywhere near that standard. I could make some resolutions about how to get there, or I could not, but unless He's the one moving me, I don't think it matters much.