New Year, New Me?

I love the last week of December. There’s a sense of closure. Whether it was a great year or a horrible one (or, as usually happens, a mixture of both), January 1 gives us a new start. When I was in school, I always rejoiced at the end of a semester. I was finished with finals and had new classes to look forward to. In the meantime, I could truly rest, knowing that I had a respite from responsibility.

A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.

For some reason, this year is much like those long-ago years in high school and college. After a packed fall and crazy December, I suddenly have a break. The health issue I mentioned a few weeks ago has been resolved with a series of good reports and I’m rapidly recovering. Even more amazing, to my mind, were the multiple comments on my positive attitude from all the doctors, nurses, etc. who were involved—clearly an answer to prayer!

Many people look forward to the New Year for a new start on old habits.

To start the new year, I’ll be looking for some sort of gainful employment. After so many years out of the job market, I have no idea where to begin, but  I’m praying that whatever job I find won’t include asking anyone if they’d like fries with their order. In the meantime, I’m happily unemployed (if broke), so there are no responsibilities in that area.

Rather, I have a rare opportunity to step back and ponder. I’m taking some time to think about where I am and where I’m going in this journey called life. What goals do I have? Where is God leading me? What is good? What needs to change?

May all your troubles last as long as your New Year resolutions.

My tendency is to focus on my situation. We need more income, so I need a job. I need to lose weight, so I’m taking smaller portions and skipping seconds. I’m getting out of shape so I joined the Y and have started working out regularly. While there are challenges in any situation, it’s relatively clear what is needed to make things better.

However, I’ve noticed that, while God does care about my situation, He’s much more interested in my character. Am I being kind? Considerate? Patient? Loving? Am I focused on myself, or on those around me?

 I can’t believe it’s been a year since I didn’t become a better person.

I’d rather not focus on these issues. It’s uncomfortable. It’s frustrating. Yes, I know I can be critical at times. (That’s one reason I was so glad God gave me a positive attitude with the medical care providers!) I’m selfish. I like to be in control.

These are the areas where I need to grow the most. Sure, I can resolve to lose weight, exercise more, earn more and spend less. Those are certainly difficult (and why they seem to be my resolutions every year!). I think God wants me to resolve to become more like Jesus.

I was going to quit all my bad habits for the new year, but then I remembered that nobody likes a quitter.

In fact, Jesus tells us, “ Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Yeah, right!

I think it’s appropriate that we celebrate Christmas so close to New Year’s. It’ only through Jesus that we can say good-bye to past failures and resolve to do better in the future? I’ve lived to an age where I know change isn’t easy. While I can promise myself I’ll stop doing the things I don’t want to do, and to start new habits, I lack the power to make the kind of changes I really need. Why else are there so many jokes about failed New Year’s resolutions?

This is why I love the book of Romans. Yes, Paul is hard to understand. He loves run-on sentences with convoluted logic that can drive me crazy. But he so clearly describes the dilemma I feel every year at this time: “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15, NASB)

Thankfully, God doesn’t leave us there. Paul continues, “Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly lower nature? Thank God! It has been done by Jesus Christ our Lord. He has set me free.” (Romans 7:24-25 TLB)

Years ago, a pastor put this in such an easy-to-understand way that I’ve never forgotten his explanation. He said that it’s like Satan dangling a fishhook before us. Before, we were tempted to take the bait, and we’d be hooked on his barbs. But now, Jesus has removed the barbs. The bait may still be there, but there is nothing holding us in sin. We’re free to live in righteousness.

What a great way to start a new year!

 

 

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