I stare at the blank page. It glares back from my computer screen, as blindingly white as the lingering snow in the yard.
A clean slate.
A fresh start.
A new year.
I gave up resolutions years ago, when I discovered that they acted upon me in the same way in which the Law does: to point out my shortcomings and to instigate rebellion. (Romans 7:7-8)
Resolutions only served to highlight the fact that I was incapable of keeping them, heaping further self-condemnation on top of my pointy little head. It seems that my resolve is weak; self-discipline not one of my strong points.
So this year, I’m doing something different.
As soon as those new-year thought patterns start racing through my head…
Gotta lose 10 pounds, give up Diet Coke, workout 5 times a week, have a longer Quiet Time, drink less Pinot Grigio, stop on-line shopping, take more vitamins…
I am going to stifle them.
Instead, I am going to start praying for something new.
I am going to admit that it is impossible to change myself.
And I’m going to ask God to change my desires.
In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis writes, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’”
Oh, Lord, let it be yours, not mine. Please don’t let me have my own way. My desires only lead to frustration and dissatisfaction. Selfishness and smallness. Captivity and woundedness.
Ultimately, chaos and destruction.
This is the crux of all things:
My will, or His will.
My way, or His way.
I want to want what He wants more than I want what I want.
I long to be a blank page on which God writes a love letter.
This year, instead of resolving to change, I am praying for the gift of a new heart.
Does anyone else struggle with the concept of New Year’s resolutions? Do you think they are helpful or harmful?
I don’t normally love The Message, but this gives a new slant to an age-old problem. If it helps, use it; if not, forget it. (Or skip it… it’s long.)
When Christ died he took that entire rule-dominated way of life down with him and left it in the tomb... For as long as we lived that old way of life, doing whatever we felt we could get away with, sin was calling most of the shots as the old law code hemmed us in. And this made us all the more rebellious... But now that we're no longer shackled to that domineering mate of sin, and out from under all those oppressive regulations and fine print, we're free to live a new life in the freedom of God.
But I can hear you say, "If the law code was as bad as all that, it's no better than sin itself." That's certainly not true. The law code had a perfectly legitimate function. Without its clear guidelines for right and wrong, moral behavior would be mostly guesswork. Apart from the succinct, surgical command, "You shall not covet," I could have dressed covetousness up to look like a virtue and ruined my life with it.
Don't you remember how it was? I do, perfectly well. The law code started out as an excellent piece of work. What happened, though, was that sin found a way to pervert the command into a temptation, making a piece of "forbidden fruit" out of it. The law code, instead of being used to guide me, was used to seduce me. Without all the paraphernalia of the law code, sin looked pretty dull and lifeless, and I went along without paying much attention to it. But once sin got its hands on the law code and decked itself out in all that finery, I was fooled, and fell for it. The very command that was supposed to guide me into life was cleverly used to trip me up, throwing me headlong. So sin was plenty alive, and I was stone dead. But the law code itself is God's good and common sense, each command sane and holy counsel.
But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question?
The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.
With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ's being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.
God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn't deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that.
The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn't deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.
(Romans 7:5- Romans 8:4, The Message)