This coming year I resolve… to make no New Year’s Resolutions. Just like I fast faithfully from participating in Lent every year. Yeah, I’ve got an independent, sometimes rebellious spirit when it comes to singing along with the status quo. But I really must share a caution or two about this stuff.
New Year’s resolutions tend to roil out in the form of lists. Sometimes long ones. And lists, people, especially when they’re ones dealing with the spiritual life, can be deadly. No, there’s nothing inherently wrong with making a list and checking it twice, investigating for yourself whether you’ve been naughty or nice. Or cataloguing what you’d like to do differently this next year. Just remember a few things if you’re so inclined:
1. Every single day is 365 days from the same day next year. Every day you can say, “A year from now, I’d like to…” So there’s nothing magical about New Years. Why’d you wait until Dec. 31st to reflect on your life and set new goals? That ought to be happening in some form daily, weekly, monthly. Today, every day, is new year’s day and new year’s eve at the same time. We want to become prayerfully reflective people who regularly ask God how they’re doing. RIght?
2. There is no end to the things you could improve. This list really could get longer than Santa’s and end up crushing your spirit under it’s damning weight.
3. Each day has enough trouble of its own, Jesus said. Planning can be good, but it can also get you worrying about things other than the important ones hopping up and down right in front of you. Remember that you can only live in the moment, not the past or the future; and you will lose the future you’re aspiring to if you don’t consistently, purposefully engage in the now.
4. Don’t make a list unless God prompts you to so, and don’t put anything on the list but the stuff he prompts you to put there, or it will become golden calf, a list of fleshly achievements God isn’t going to bless anyway. Listen: YOU DO NOT HAVE THE WISDOM TO PRIORITIZE THE THOUSAND AND ELEVEN THINGS THAT NEED WORK IN YOUR LIFE. Neither do I. Leave that to God. If you need help with that, read Psalm 23 again.
5. Don’t EVER, and I mean ever, use that list (or any other one, for that matter, except maybe Deuteronomy 6:5 (Love God, love people) to measure your worth or be the final word on how you’re doing. That’s a way of life called “the old way of the written code,” and Jesus died to release you from that dead-end path. Lists can replace God as our Guide in the blink of an eye.