A Good Year
I didn’t make any resolutions this year.
If you wanted me to make a list for you of all the ways that I would like to change, all of the things that I wish I did better, all of the areas where I’m struggling to do more, be more, love more … well, we would be here for quite a while. Yet, even as I know just how much I need improvement, I sometimes wonder why many of us make and name and cling to new year’s resolutions.
They go notoriously unkept. We know it every year. Every year, we scribble some resolutions in the brand-new journal we bought (that we’re going to write in every day). And then, in a few weeks, when the journal has only been written in twice, and we have already lost any amount of resolve we had to change, we go about our life in pretty much the same state we were in at the end of the old year. And, truthfully, we’re pretty much OK with that.
For several years now, I have helped out with our wild Wednesday night children’s program where we’re likely to dress up as pirates one week and turn someone into a human sundae the next. Together the children have learned a pretty important resolution of the Christian life: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30) All across the rowdy crowd of children, little voices call it out, many having no idea of what it means to love God with everything you have.
And maybe I don’t either.
Maybe a long, long time ago I decided that loving God looked like following all the rules. (After all, didn’t Keith Green sing Samuel’s famous line: To obey is better than sacrifice?) “Obedience is loving God,” I’ve often thought, and what I never really wanted to admit is that I felt just as strongly that obeying God would, at least in some way, make Him love me back.
The trouble with that thinking is that as hard as I try to obey, I often don’t. So, what is an extreme rule follower like myself to do when there are clear directives that I can obey in outward ways but disobey in my heart and head? How do I think of my standing before a holy God when those who observe my actions might say that I’m resolved to love God, to honor and obey Him, but inside I know that I have no resolve whatsoever? That I’m weak and selfish and struggling; I always struggle, to feel that I am “good” enough to be loved by God? Well, I’ll tell you.
Someone like that doesn’t make resolutions. I don’t decide that I’m going to change and then rely on my resolve to make it happen. Someone like that HAS to fall at the feet of the God of the Universe and cry out for divine intervention, for strength where I have none. For real understanding of the truth that nothing I do saves me at all. That there is no way for me to convince God to love me. He just does. He loved me before I even considered loving Him. And, He isn’t going to stop, no matter how much I fall flat on my face.
So, 2019 isn’t going to be a year of self-improvement guidelines for me. It’s going to be a never-ending exercise in trying to love God with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind and all my strength, knowing that my heart is deceitful, my soul is hopelessly condemned without Him, my mind is depraved, and my strength is practically nonexistent. Thankfully, His word fills my heart with truth, His grace and mercy rescue my soul, His perspective can change the way I think about everything, and His strength is sufficient for even me. Now, that is a mighty God, and one that spells out His love every day with new mercies, old promises kept, and a bright future to look forward to.
I didn’t make any new year’s resolutions. But I do know this. I want this year to be one filled with expanding faith, deeper knowledge of who God is, and a greater understanding of what it really means to love Him. I know I need His word and I need His people. And, if He chooses to use me for His good purposes, I want to be open to any and all ways that He may do that. Listen, all I am is a recovering Pharisee. God loves me anyway. He sees all of me, every bit and He never walks away. I want to love Him more than I love being “good.” I want to love Him more than I hate my sin. And, as my children watch me live this life, I don’t want them to say I am amazing. They know better. I pray instead that they will say, “This one thing I know. God is real.”
I have no resolve. but I have a Savior. It’s going to be a good year.
“So, 2019 isn’t going to be a year of self-improvement guidelines for me. It’s going to be a never-ending exercise in trying to love God with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind and all my strength, knowing that my heart is deceitful, my soul is hopelessly condemned without Him, my mind is depraved, and my strength is practically non-existent.”