Friday, January 2, 2009

Already blew your resolutions?

From one Christian point of view, "New Year's Resolutions" stink. They are an effort at self-will, usually with self serving motives (losing weight seldom has to do with health issues or temperance, but with vanity or a fantasy about hooking up with someone better lookin').

From another Christian POV, resolutions can be useful: Because we break them so quickly, they can create a spiritual frustration that drives us into the arms of God.

And resolutions can remind us to be gentle with ourselves. We are all "works in progress."

Several comforting insights came from the Prayer Book's January 2nd Morning Lessons:

Psalm 34:4-7 reminds us that all the ugly crud in our lives cannot separate us from God's favor:

I sought the LORD, and he answered me *and delivered me out of all my terror.
Look upon him and be radiant, *and let not your faces be ashamed.
I called in my affliction and the LORD heard me *and saved me from all my troubles.
The angel of the LORD encompasses those who fear him, *and he will deliver them.

Genesis 12:1-7 and Hebrews 11:1-12 teach us that folks who journey without all the answers and outcomes are the heroes of faith. Jesus blesses those who "hunger and thirst for righteousness," not those who think they're already there.

Jesus himself was misunderstood and resented. Others' attitudes and behaviors are not necessarily the measure of our worth in God's eyes.

But my favorite message this morning was in Canticle 10, which is drawn from Isaiah 55 in the Bible:

For as rain and snow fall from the heavens *and return not again, but water the earth, Bringing forth life and giving growth, *seed for sowing and bread for eating,
So is my word that goes forth from my mouth; *it will not return to me empty;
But it will accomplish that which I have purposed, *and prosper in that for which I sent it.

Looking out my window as I pray, I see everything covered with snow. That cold stuff will give life and beauty to all the hidden things that will come to life in the Spring. It has a purpose, even though it just seems cold and dead at the moment.

God's word is active in the resolutions you are breaking right now. He's looking for a thaw in your cold places. He's looking for his Word, Jesus Christ, to seep in and bring you fuller life, greater joy and more perfect peace than you've imagined.

Your life is God's purpose. So drop those self-driven resolutions and invite Him to make the changes you need.


robroy said...

First off...Happy New Year, Father Tim.

Second, Kendall+ posted a NY Times article about how religious people exercise more self control which is thought to contribute to their increased longevity (see here. In particular, we have this very much unremarkable conclusion:

He [Michael McCullough] and a fellow psychologist at the University of Miami, Brian Willoughby, have reviewed eight decades of research and concluded that religious belief and piety promote self-control.

And to answer your question: I haven't yet broken my resolution yet. I resolved to not say a single curse word in 2009. This didn't seem to be a too big an ambition because I probably said less than ten off-colored words in 2008. If I make it through 2009, I will carry on in 2010, etc.

We were talking my resolution in the OR today about, where it was a particularly tough case but in the end turned out really well (but I could have let slip a few expletive deletives). I thought about adding another resolution: to loose 1 lb a week in 2009. That resolution, I have a feeling, is probably not going to last, but I think I will give it a go.


TLF+ said...

Thanks, robroy, and God bless and support your discipleship! Certainly worthwhile to reign in the cursing. May the Spirit lead you into some wonderful discoveries as you make this offering. (No small feat, given what James says about controlling our tounges!)

I should have pointed out that Christians do things like Lenten disciplines that are similar to New Year's resolutions.

The defining difference is maturing into the image and stature of Christ - any lesser agenda is, well, lesser and transitory.

Happy New Year to you, too!

Alice C. Linsley said...

It helps me to focus on the fact that I am a lamb who by nature strays and Christ is the Good Shepherd who seeks me, directs my path, and is singularly able to preserve my soul. That's what I need to remember every day of the year.

TLF+ said...

Did you catch John 10:10-17 in Saturday's (Jan. 3rd) Daily Office lectionary? It was a real gift to have The Good Shepherd message as we ponder the Christ child. He came with a purpose and we are it, every moment of every day.