You’ve probably heard the statistics before. About half of the U.S. population makes New Year’s resolutions, but only eight percent of those who make resolutions succeed in keeping them.
So why do I, year after year, sit down with a sheet of paper and pen to write out resolutions for the upcoming year? Don’t the statistics indicate that I’m doomed to fail?
While there is certainly no biblical imperative to make resolutions, and their efficacy isn’t promising, I tend to approach resolutions with the perspective of Dwight Eisenhower: “Plans are nothing. Planning is everything.”
New Year’s resolutions aren’t a silver bullet that will help me become a better version of me. Instead, they are tools to help me think well and concretely about what the upcoming year might hold. My resolutions are a way I number my days and live with wisdom. Resolutions offer me a means of sorting through my hopes and dreams, tuning myself to how God is at work in my life and through me.
Here are four of my New Year’s resolutions along with four questions to help you set some resolutions of your own.
I resolve to prioritize cooking. I’ve written before of the joy and significance that cooking brings to my life. Sadly, though, I can push cooking off to the side when life is busy, stressful, or grief-filled. Those times, however, are precisely when I need to cook the most. Cooking is a way that I embrace the beauty of this world and fuel my longings for my future home in the new heaven and new earth. The routine of preparing my favorite dishes is a comfort when life seems uncontrollable. Cooking reminds me of the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness to provide, and moves me to rest.
What hobby do you want to cultivate? What is something you can do this year to savor the goodness of creation and the Creator? Maybe it’s drawing, reading, woodworking, running, playing the piano, or rock climbing. Our hobbies don’t need to be frivolous activities we engage in when we have free time or are bored. Instead, they are opportunities to enjoy the fullness of God’s creation and rest in Him.
I resolve to tend a garden. The beginning of this year brought the death of my grandfather. As I look to the new year knowing that I’ll need to grieve, I want to do that well. My grandfather was an avid gardener, and this spring I hope to till a plot of land in my little yard, plant seedlings, watch them grow and enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of my labor. Just as I grieved my grandmother’s death and honored her life through preparing her well-loved recipes and serving them to my family and friends, I hope to grieve my grandfather’s death and remember the gift he was in my life through tending a garden of my own.
How do you need to grieve this year? We all have pieces of our stories that are broken and hard, be it the loss of a loved one, a lackluster career, or unwanted singleness. Scripture never demeans our grief or asks us to grin and bear it. Jesus meets us in our grief and heals us, often through ordinary means. For me, that will likely be honoring my grandfather through gardening. What might it look like for you?
I resolve to embrace the quotidian. I recently shared with my fellow Boundless writers that last year was an odd year for me because it was the first in a long time where I didn’t have a milestone event to celebrate. I missed the attention and the buzz that comes with moving, starting a new job and buying a home. The lack of change was surprisingly disorienting.
As I enter the new year, I want to honor the ordinary life God is bringing me each day instead of seeking another adventure, another thrill, another milestone.
“Christ’s ordinary years are part of our redemption story,” writes Tish Harrison Warren in her book “Liturgy of the Ordinary.” “Because of the incarnation and those long, unrecorded years of Jesus’ life, our small, normal lives matter… If Christ spent time in obscurity, then there is infinite worth found in obscurity…there is no task too small or too routine to reflect God’s glory and worth.”
How might you embrace the obscure, small and routine? How can you reframe your daily tasks of making the bed, cooking meals, driving, and texting friends as good work from the Lord instead of hindrances to doing “real work?” Facebook and Instagram have trained us to view our lives in terms of milestone events that get “likes” and comments. Yet, as Warren writes: “If Christ spent most of his life in quotidian ways, then all of life is brought under his lordship.”
Embracing our daily rhythms isn’t an excuse to become self-focused. Seeing the breadth of our lives as a gift from the Lord spurs us to seek justice and peace in the ordinary and mundane. It might look like tutoring at the local elementary school, inviting international students from the nearby college for a meal in your home, or saying hi to your neighbor when you bring in your mail. Our faith isn’t simply lived out on mission trips, at conferences or through big movements. This year will likely be another quiet year for me, and I want to embrace the quotidian as a good gift from God, not merely second best.
I resolve to wrestle with my doubts. As a teenager, I sought a faith that was founded in logic, apologetics and air-tight arguments. While I’m thankful for that strong foundation, my adult years have been filled with doubts about God’s existence and sovereignty. I know the “right” answers and good theology, but struggle to believe them in the face of suffering and evil. Instead of spurning those doubts, I want to wrestle with them as Jacob wrestled with God. He came out a broken man, but through the struggle, he was blessed.
What do you need to wrestle through? Maybe you’ve lost a beloved friend, parent or sibling. Maybe you’re estranged from someone you love. Maybe you’re weary of having roommate after roommate and lacking a place to call home. Whatever your struggle, don’t suppress your frustration, disappointment and grief this year. Instead, wrestle with God through the hard parts of your story. Turn to prayer, Scripture, and your Christian community, and fix your eyes on the suffering Savior. As one of my favorite hymns puts it:
Be gone unbelief, my Savior is near
And for my relief will surely appear:
By prayer let me wrestle, and He wilt perform
With Christ in the vessel, I smile at the storm.
Whatever this new year holds for you, whether you choose to make resolutions or not, I pray that your days will be filled with wisdom and grace from our Father above.