We tend to get two messages over the holidays: that this is a time of extreme stress and it’s a time of relaxation with friends and family. So which is it? Maybe it’s a before-and-after thing — now that Christmas Day is over we can mellow out a week until bills come due in January. Or maybe it’s more of an undercurrent of stress amidst all the family gatherings that can bring about drama.
Regardless, just about the time full relaxation sets in, New Year’s resolutions start trending on Twitter. So after we’re told to race around buying gifts, go to parties and ring in the New Year with optimism, we’re told to hit the gym, drink less soda and tone down vices. Indulge; then stop indulging, just to let loose again in 11 months.
Once I start writing the date regularly with a new year at the end, a certain awareness takes hold, a realization that time really is moving quickly, and there’s the number to prove it. The days are long and the years are short, and unlike my birthday in the middle of the year where I can’t visibly tell any difference the morning I wake up, the novelty of a new year fuels me for a while — like moving into a new house or starting a new job. But it begins to wear off by the Tuesday after the Super Bowl as my old self returns, and I’m left staring down a few things I was excited to do a month earlier but have since lost the motivation.
I’m pretty bad about losing motivation and procrastinating, and I have never gotten into the New Year resolution thing. Believe me I’ve tried and even recently found some old documents on my computer with resolutions for 2007 and 2008. The first item on both: Read more. That’s a noble goal, but not quantifiable. What does “reading more” entail? Two books a year instead of one? Fiction or non-fiction? My other resolutions were similarly difficult to measure; I guess I knew all along that by making them purposely vague they would be easier to fulfill. Maybe I’m just not a list person.
But what about a decision to seek Christ more in the everyday? That is similarly hard to quantify (and unfortunately didn’t make my list those two years) but unlike “read more” I know exactly what it would look like. Pursuing Christ in the everyday becomes a lifestyle — not a checklist beginning Jan. 1 — of daily communication, study and prayer with our Savior.
A few ways I keep in touch is through Bible reading plans (currently on the life of Abraham), Hebrew root-word meanings, and word studies such as use of the term “grace” in the New Testament. I then try and apply that newfound understanding to how I react when upset. While the studies may seem checklist-oriented, they lead to application that fosters new attitudes.
The quantifiable aspects of a life lived for Christ take shape on their own if we truly make Him a part of the everyday. They begin to permeate our thought process and snowball into other convictions and actions. But such actions don’t have to be purely spiritual. There’s a difference between a simple resolution (lose 20 pounds) and a lifestyle decision (eat healthier for the sake of my family) — the latter has no beginning or endpoint, and is more far-reaching in benefits.
What are your thoughts on New Year’s resolutions? Have they worked for you? Do certain things stick better than others based on how you approach them?