The Value of Resolutions

ny resolnyresolving I listen to the Radio when I am driving. I’m not sure why because often I tune out the broadcast as soon as it starts. Yet, some things get through to me, now and then. This week I listened for mention of New Year’s Resolutions. Much of what I heard can be categorized as being one or two types of mentions of Resolutions. Either it was a part of a sales pitch for some product or it was a rip or comedy routine about broken New Year Resolutions. Typical of what I heard was a pitch to buy a new truck, because it was “one resolution we wouldn’t mind keeping.” The pitch went like this: “if you buy the truck it will be the one resolution you keep this year.” This is a subtle rip on the fact New Year’s Resolutions almost always get broken.

Last year I had a resolution among many to do more recycling. Therefore in thinking about what promises I made to myself to try and do something for 2015, I have decided to succeed with one of  my 2014 resolutions,  recycling more, by recycling my 2014 resolutions for 2015. I guess in doing so, I am joking about whether I will actually keep my resolutions for 2015, and acknowledging I did not do a good job with my 2014 resolutions. In,acknowledging this, I have discovered one truth about resolutions:it is hard to keep your resolutions when you can’t remember them.

Yes I wrote them down. However, I am scattered and I forgot where I hid the list last year, ok. This should be one of my resolution for this year: To be more organized. Except it has been my resolution for as long as I can remember. I do organize some things better these days, and even a few things quite well, but I am perpetually in need of organization or re-organization. What other things seem to make an annual appearance to my list? The usual suspects include to write more, read more, listen better, spend more time in prayer, and to boat. All self improvement, but no mention of physical exercise. I do have a standing daily desire to get back into the shape I was in when I played basketball including having hops again to reverse dunk. I have realized it ain’t going to happen though. Therefore it no longer makes the list.

The kinds of resolutions we make every year (if we resolve anything at all) are interesting. Ever notice they are largely self centered and childish–see mine above. How many people promise to do something to better the world they live in or change something locally for others. Most of us are pretty good about making personal resolutions but not communal ones. Most of us are also pretty good at making promises, but not so much at actually developing a plan to succeed at the promise. Or Plan B or C or figuring out how exactly to do what we want to do. That might be why most resolutions are not kept and where the phrase “resolutions like rules are made to be broken” comes from. Some of my friends realize this because they just refused to make resolutions this year and justified it with this statement and similar,  “because why waste your time, if you don’t plan on keeping them anyway.”

Originally, New Year Resolutions actually had a liturgical or religious worship tradition behind them. I discovered this years ago in thinking I had a novel worship idea for New Year’s Day which occurred on a Sunday that year. The idea was of asking everyone to write down not New Year Resolutions for themselves but promises they wanted to make to God for the New Year. In sharing this with one of my seminary professors (I was a student pastor at the time), I was informed it was not novel at all, and there was a tradition behind making promises to God in the New Year and this had been the basis of the New Year’s Resolution thing. OK. this has now made me wonder: if we make promises to God instead of ourselves how well would most of us be in keeping them?

I can’t speak for most of us but only for myself. I know I would be better at keeping the promise to God than the ones I make to myself, but this doesn’t mean I wouldn’t break those resolutions eventually. Thank goodness God doesn’t break promises to us, right? I would not want to disappoint God, nor break a promise to God, because vows like that are really important to me, but I would, because I am human. But I think this is the point of resolutions. Once you break it, you re-establish or promise it again. Resolutions are not one time and done. A resolution is a process rather than an event which once it is passed it is over forever. No it is a process where we have to fail and then start over, fail and resume trying, to actually succeed at ultimately doing what we promise to do, including what we promise God to do.

When we make a resolution it is an acknowledgement we can and should perform better or be better at something than we are already. God expects us to grow, to improve, to become better with experience, age, struggle, and life.  I keep saying this is why God created us to grow old not the other way around (to grow young). But I really wonder what God wants for me for 2015 and would like to see me work on to improve. I don’t know. What I do know is God has offered forgiveness when I fail, acceptance when I break promises (whether to God or myself) but what is it I should really promise God? I do not want to be stuck with trying to fulfill a promise to God I am incapable of keeping. To make a resolution on my own without asking my creator what I should promise is to take control over my life, instead of letting go and placing my life in God’s hands.

I still am not sure what God wants from me in 2015. Or even what God has in store for me this year. However, maybe if I break it into parts it will be easier an exercise. Say 365 parts, daily renewed. This will involve getting better at listening for the voice of God all around and especially in prayer. So my resolution should simply be this year to listen each day for God’s voice telling me what I should do to become the person I was created to become. Perhaps it is the best resolution I could come up with this year. Maybe I should just write down that my one resolution is TBD or To Be Determined.

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