We all know that the start of the New Year usually comes with a number of different resolutions and good intentions. We also know that usually those resolutions go great for a week or two, or maybe even a few months, but that quite often they end up getting lost in the shuffle of life and we inevitably fall into our traditional patterns, rather than being able to make consistent changes in ourselves.
Two things are happening in the midst of this cultural phenomenon. First and foremost, the nature of this social tradition is founded in our inherent awareness that we all fall short of our own ideal for ourselves, let alone the ideal society hopes for in all people.
In Christianity obviously, this concept is described by the word sin. This concept clearly spans a plethora of religious and world-views. The evidence for this is found in the notion of New Year’s Resolutions.
The second thing that is happening in this cultural phenomenon of good intentions falling flat on their face, is that we are attempting to make changes, one behavior at a time. This is much like when the church has shaken its finger at the world and said something like, “You must stop doing X, Y and Z, and begin doing this, that and the other, before you can be right with God.”
In that strategy of the church, we find the same failure of New Year’s Resolutions. When we look at the overarching claim of scripture, the encouragement actually points to developing a foundation in grace, so that one can be connected to God and in that connection good things will naturally flow and evil will naturally dissipate. This is similar to the philosophy found in a song lyric by the band Phish, “If you can heal the symptoms, but not affect the cause, it’s quite a bit like trying to heal the gunshot wound with gauze.”
Changing our behaviors but not allowing our fundamental identity to evolve, comes with the success of stopping the bleeding at best, but does not prevent infection.
So, my prayer for folks at the beginning of 2019, is less about identifying the particular places where you fall short of your own ideal, and more in seeing growth in people’s awareness of self. When we truly introspect, and come face to face with our true character, then we are poised to effectively direct that character towards the ideal. When we get distracted by our particular habits and actions, and we forget to study the depths of who we actually are and who we want to be, we get lost chasing our own tail, one failed resolution after another, year after year.
It is easier to identify habits, but it is harder to change them. It is harder to discover the depths of your identity, but it is easier to change it.