What you are about to read might shock you. It might enrage you. It might even make you want you scribble a nasty letter to the editor. But know that I am writing this for your own good. So it might be best to sit down, take a few deep breaths, and heed my words:
You’re making your New Year’s resolutions all wrong. And you need to stop it right now.
I am serious. This is serious. New Year’s resolutions are a big deal, and I am sick and tired of watching you people fail at them. Don’t try to pretend like you don’t fail at yours. A recent study by the University of Scranton’s Journal of Clinical Psychology suggests that an alarming 92 percent of Americans (Canadians and others, I’m throwing you in here too) botch their resolutions—92 percent. Of the 8 percent that succeed, I suspect half are lying to cover their shame. Through my own research, I discovered that none of them are Calvinists. This is unacceptable.
Fortunately, I have developed a three-step approach to crafting the perfect New Year’s resolution. Not only will these steps lead to creating successful resolutions for years to come, they will also make you a better Christian. I’m sure of it. If you’ve already made your resolutions, burn them. If you have yet to make one, prepare yourself for greatness. If you’re one of those people who “don’t make New Year’s resolutions,” now you will. Behold the fruit of my labor.
Step 1: Start with What You Lack
Write down all the ways in which you are inadequate. Perhaps it is your weight or your eating habits. Maybe it’s your financial situation, the way you spend money, or your negative outlook on life. Yes, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Of course, you are God’s workmanship. A royal priesthood? Absolutely! But this is no time to respond as a grateful servant.
Now is not the time to consider sharing the gifts God has given you. This is a time to highlight all that you don’t have but wish you did—like, maybe, a beautiful companion. Perhaps your car is a piece of junk, or you just feel dumber than most people. These are all good. Write them down.
After filling a few notebooks, you may feel like you’re done. You’re not. Take a break and come back. You’ll think of plenty more things to list while you’re crying in the bathroom. I filled up six notebooks just the other day. When you’re finally done, you’ll notice a few gems that really sting. Congratulations. What’s more, now you’ve got a whole arsenal of inadequacies on file. You can even plan ahead for 2017 and well into the next millennium.
Maybe you don’t lack anything. That’s great! I bet you want stuff, though. Jot everything down in your notebook. Want to run a marathon? Excellent. Climb Everest? Perfect. Buy an island? Now you’re talking! I know Psalm 23 says, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.”
But that only applies to people on their deathbeds. That’s not you. You, my friend, are not dying. You are seeking life.
When you’ve finally pegged a desire or two that makes you really salivate, don’t ask God for it. Asking requires waiting, waiting takes time, and you’ve only got a year. Go ahead and take it. God’s going to say yes, anyway, right? And trust me on this, he wants what you want. He wants you to be fully you in the world, and no one else. So go and take whatever you want as soon as you can. It may be helpful to start every day with this simple phrase, “Take, take, take, take, take.” Then proceed directly to Step 3.
Step 2: Focus on the Finite
In Matthew 6:33, Jesus urges us to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. In doing so, all our anxieties will fade and all our needs will be met. I couldn’t agree more. However, I would posit that the kingdom of God is infinite. It will be around forever. In fact, Jesus is there right now making a place for you. And since he’s the perfect carpenter, I bet it’s going to be spectacular.
What won’t be around forever are your fleshly desires in the here and now. They are the things you can’t take with you. I can almost guarantee you’ll miss them when they’re gone—or when you’re gone, whichever comes first. Remember, “you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” When it’s gone, it’s gone.
To avoid any regret, decide on the New Year’s resolution that satisfies your flesh. Soon it will be a fleeting memory. Choose whatever makes you feel as powerful as possible and gives you the most control.
Top fleshly choices in years past include:
- Lose weight/get fit.
- Load up on retirement savings.
- Learn something new.
- Practice healthier eating.
With your final self-fulfilling resolution chosen, head on to Step 3.
Step 3: Take Everything Seriously
Now you are ready to embark on your New Year’s resolution. It’s important to start by remembering the only reason God created you: to be a radical, extraordinary, countercultural, freedom-fighting, superhuman force of nature. You were created for the sole purpose of changing the world. You need to become a famous, shining beacon of perfection for the whole world to see. Nothing less will do.
This is not something that magically happens. Oh no. This takes a change of habit that can only come through strict dedication to your New Year’s resolution. Research from University College London shows that creating a new habit requires about 66 consecutive days of regimented attention. That’s the time needed to rewire the neural pathways in your brain. You must take these first 66 days seriously. No compromising. No failing. No smiling or direct eye contact.
God needs you. I mean, he actually needs you. He cannot carry the weight of a broken cosmos alone. In fact, his plan for the salvation of the world hinges on your good deeds and promises as much as his own. When God knit you in your mother’s womb, it was only because he needed your help uniting all mankind. So don’t botch this up. Don’t let God down. The fate of the soul and the world is in your hands. I mean, think about it, Jesus came here to save you. The least you can do is return the favor.
To keep you on task for those first 66 days, simply repeat at 90-second intervals the words Jesus will say to you if you blow this:
“I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoer!”
If that doesn’t keep you motivated, nothing will.
* * *
At this point, I’m sure you can’t wait to develop your 2016 New Year’s resolutions. I’m feeling so confident in my new approach, I might even give it a whirl myself. In the meantime, I’m going to call someone over at the University of Scranton’s Journal of Clinical Psychology. I can’t wait to let them know about the big changes that are coming. Have a happy New Year. Remember, when it comes New Year’s resolutions, every square inch belongs to us—and God—but mostly us. For that is what most New Year’s resolutions are mostly all about.
Enjoyed this article?
Don’t miss this week’s must-read articles:
- Tell A Better Story
- ‘Rebirth’ for a Wisconsin Church
- Book review: A Church Called Tov, by Laura Barringer and Scot McKnight