New Year Angst

Call me cynical, but I’ve got a hard heart when it comes to New Years resolutions. Of course I’d never say that out loud, but I don’t think I can take another exercise check list or personal goal chart. I can’t help rolling my eyes—I’m so over it.

I realize I’ve got a bad attitude, but let’s be honest for a second. As much as I’d like to be, I’m not an achiever. Somehow I missed that self-discipline gene. But, being the dreamer that I am, I’m great at convincing myself that I actually am one.

Every year when January rolls around, I come up with a fantastical improvement plan covering all areas of my life. Am I going to read my Bible more? Well yes of course, I’m going to read the whole thing twice. Exercise twice a week you say? Bump that—I’m going to run every single day. And do Crossfit. And eat three incredibly healthy meals per day. I’m caught up on this unrealistic achiever high for about week, until inevitably—as they do every year—my resolutions fail. I make excuses. I’ll do better tomorrow. I get discouraged. I feel guilty. And then I just give up. 

You see why I’m cynical? Why bother even starting the cycle, when I know I’m only going to be disappointed in myself.

When I react like this, I know it reveals something very important about where my heart is. I’ve thrown up a well-constructed self-protective wall to shield a real and nasty danger. Call it pride, self-reliance, works-based righteousness—however you choose to define it—a part of my heart desperately wants to be defined by what I do. 

Don’t get me wrong, I think were were meant to do things well. The alternative would be everyone being terrible at stuff, and well that would just lead to anarchy, chaos and one huge suck fest. We can and should take pride in our accomplishments. But ultimately I don’t think we are meant to find meaning in them.

So quick Bible moment, I think this is what’s going on in the book of Galatians. Paul, the author, is frustrated at the church at Galatia because they’ve been preaching that in order to be a true Christian, you have to be circumcised, essentially submitting themselves back under the law, saying salvation is contingent on what one does. Worth defined by works. 

Paul’s pretty adamant about how dangerous this belief is. Take a quick look at what he says:

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision (works), Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” Galatians 5:1-4 (ESV)

Grace! So sweet in its acceptance and so easily rejected in a moment. And yet I think it’s the key to my resolution issue. I get it, my goals tend to be unrealistic, I know it’d help to trim them down to attainable levels. But really what I need is grace, because grace gives me the freedom and joy to keep going in a moment of failure. Instead of throwing in the towel when I’ve failed, when I’m tempted to tie my worth to what I’m doing—I can preach grace into my heart.

So back to that whole resolution thing. I’m going to try out a few, and this year I hope they work out. But more importantly I hope I remember my worth isn’t based on whether I accomplish them or not. I have been saved by faith. I have a Father who desperately loves me and who has infinitely answered for my shortcomings. And it really is true, his mercies are new every morning.