Happy New Year!
Over the years around New Year’s Day, I’ve written about the kinds of resolutions Jesus would want us to make for the coming year. Think about that. Based on what you know of Jesus’ teachings and lifestyle, what do you think his resolutions for you are for 2022? Write them down on a list. Maybe the top 5.
Here’s the thing, though. New Year’s Day is just a day. As the band U2 once sang, “Nothing changes on New Year’s Day.” For many of us, and I would venture to guess for most of us, U2 is describing our reality. This year New Year’s Day is a Saturday, so it is not only just another day, it is a weekend day, and some of us can’t even look forward to it as an extra day off work.
What I’m getting at is that we don’t need to wait for New Year’s Day to make resolutions. Instead we should be asking Jesus what he wants us to do every day. I very much believe that having a new year marker is a good thing. Most years we need a point, a line in the sand, where we can say that now is the time for a fresh start. We definitely needed 2020 to end, and I think most people are saying the same about 2021. Here’s hoping and praying that 2022 is better than the past two years. Yet, we do not need to wait until January 1st each year to start making the changes that Jesus wants us to make. We can and should be evaluating our lives on a much more frequent basis.
But evaluation and resolutions, even if they come from Jesus himself, only go so far, right? You and I can get a fair and balanced evaluation of our lives, and then we can make realistic, practical resolutions to do something about the evaluation, hopefully enhancing our strengths and working to improve our weaknesses, but in the end we might do very little to change. Year after year goes by, and we have to admit that our situation remains basically the same. Have you experienced that in your life? Have you ever hoped and dreamed about new goals, and then you created a plan to achieve them, even a very doable plan, but you didn’t do it? Or maybe you made a start, but you didn’t complete it? It could be a simple as reading a book or as large as going back to school to complete a degree. Why do we not follow through?
There are many reasons, of course. Distractions, waning motivations, lack of time or money or energy. Maybe we get sick, maybe a relationship breaks apart, maybe work picks up, maybe we have a child or grandchild and they rightly need our attention. Sometimes we just procrastinate. Sometimes we get tempted by lesser things. I started working on my doctoral dissertation in the fall of 2020, and I was excited to graduate in May 2021. But that fall, I taught an online class that turned out to be far more involved than I expected. Work on my dissertation ground to a near standstill. In the past year, I have picked at it, here a little, there a little. I have made forward progress, but I didn’t make the May 2021 deadline. Now with four months until the new May 2022 deadline, will I make it? Will I make the changes necessary to accomplish the goal? Last year when the seminary sent a “sign up for graduation” email, I didn’t respond. I knew I wasn’t going to make the May 2021 deadline. A few weeks ago this year’s version of the email downloaded to my inbox, and there I let it sit for a week. Stewing. If I didn’t answer it, I wouldn’t have to feel the pressure of the deadline. But I also hate having this burden named “dissertation” on my shoulders all the time. I want to be free. I want to accomplish the goal. So I responded, “Sign me up.” Now the clock is ticking. What will I do to make it to the finish line?
There are so many reasons that might have caused us not to do what Jesus wants us to do in the past. But that is in now in the past. Today, whether it is New Year’s Day or any other day, is the day to start fresh. What reasons do you have that have held you back? What will you do about it this year? Next week in our study of Ezekiel, we come to a major transition in the narrative, and I think you’ll find it is a perfect fit for New Year’s, and for learning how to make progress in following Jesus. Read Ezekiel 33:21-33, and then check back in to the blog on Monday for part one of the five-part series.