Dec 31

Rev Gav

What is the best New Year resolution to make?

We all get better at things such as skills and learning by trying harder, but what about our moral characters? Do we become ‘better’ people by trying harder?

One of my favourite seasonal movies is ‘It’s a wonderful life’ in which disillusioned George Bailey wishes he had never been born, prompting an angel to show him how his life’s seemingly small acts of kindness touched countless lives, making his home town of Bedford Falls a beautiful place, and filling him with gratitude and a renewed appreciation for his ‘wonderful life.’ I have watched this movie many times over the years, and even though I know how it ends, I still find myself moved and fighting back the tears, for it communicates a deeper truth about our journey and the people we encounter. The movie, often watched at Christmastime or New Year, is also the season when pastors and Christian newspaper columnists, reflecting on our own lives, write about New Year’s resolutions whilst tacking on some tenuous link with the Bible. However, rather than trying to sanctify the secular practice of the New Year’s resolution, is there a different approach?

In our culture, a vast number of people (some estimate up to 40%) make some kind of New Year’s resolution. Popular promises include improving ones health, lifestyle, finances, career, education, or giving. The mantra of the New Year’s resolution is, ‘I can become better at something by trying harder’ and this is true for learned physical or mental activities and skills but what about our moral character? Can we become ‘better people’ by trying harder?

The desire to become a better person on the inside is an indicator that things in our life are not perfect and not how we would wish them to be — perhaps a result of our lifestyle choices or poor decision making. Therefore, the end of the old year and the beginning of a new year provides a good opportunity to reflect over the preceding year and for us to recognise that during the year we have hurt ourselves or others, and that we have a longing for inner peace.

The New Year is also an opportunity to reflect — not only on the past year but also our lives up to this point — for it is difficult to make a plan for the future without looking back at the past. Not that we can change anything about what has already happened, but we can ascertain what the general thrust of our life has been up to this point. What course have we sailed? Where have we been? What has been the trajectory? What skills do we now carry? What lessons have we learned? And perhaps, if we are people of faith, where is God in our lives — what has God been doing and where is God leading us?

However — and this is the biggie — there is one enormous difference between the secular New Year’s resolution and what Christians believe and practice. Christians believe that we do not become better people by trying harder. Rather than try and change the outside — the things we do and say in a hope that it will change us on the inside — Christians believe that we become better people by allowing God to change us and transform us from the inside. It is through getting closer to God — letting God in — that we become the people that God created us to be. We are divine works in progress.

When I reflect on my life, as a follower of Christ, for the most part I have done my best to be obedient to God — to listen, discern, and act. In each community in which I have lived or served, I have done my best to sprinkle light and love, to add and not subtract, and to give more than I have received, however, it has not been easy. Like George Bailey in the film ‘It’s a wonderful life’, no doubt in your own life, you will encounter people that will try and knock you from the path you are on — whether at home, work, or at play. It is tough to stay standing when it feels that people or circumstances are constantly trying to knock you down, and yet, I guarantee that if you look back, you will see the gems, the good that has happened, and the way in which you have touched and blessed the lives of others. You will have done this in ways you never imagined.

At the beginning of this coming year, you will not find me giving up something or making promises to do something, but you will find me seeking God with all my heart, mind, and strength, for no matter how many resolutions I make, I know that change can only come through surrendering my life to God, and letting God in. As the bells of New Year chime, it is God’s work in me that is ringing in the changes.

Your friend in Christ.

Rev Gav

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