There is a pretty easy explanation as to why the vast majority of New Year’s resolutions don’t make it past the fifth of January. It’s because for most of them, they are unrealistic goals motivated by a desire for radical change in one’s life. And while radical change is not necessarily a bad thing, it becomes impossible when you are trying to fit that change into a one second window between 11:59:59 on December 31st and midnight on January 1st.
The typical New Year’s battle cry, things like “I’m going to lose 50 pounds this year” or “I’m going to be a better person this year” are indeed admirable goals and I am not saying for a second that we should not set them and move toward them. What usually happens though is that at the first sign of an obstacle moving towards these goals, most people fold up like a cheap tent and say “to heck with it!” We expect ourselves to change behaviors and positions that have probably been with us for many years and we literally expect it overnight. With the deck stacked so heavily and unfairly against us, it’s no wonder why the average New Year’s resolution does not last for more than a fortnight.
The apostle Paul tells us in Romans 6:14 that “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” The “law” under the Mosaic covenant, was and is a very unforgiving thing. Paul further talks about not knowing what sin is, if it had not been for the law itself. The same is true for us today.
There are two types of citizens in our world. Simply put, there are law-abiding citizens and non-law-abiding citizens – who we like to call, criminals. In order for a person to remain a law-abiding citizen, they must, well, obey all the laws. In order to become a criminal, one only needs to break the law. So when we apply the “law” to the treatment of our New Year’s Resolutions, we are already setting ourselves up for failure. The Law is pass/fail.
You will make mistakes, hence the Grace.
Instead, we should approach January 1st from a different perspective. Yes, it’s a new year, new calendar and, it is as good a time as any to start fresh in many aspects of our lives. We should also realize that many of the bad habits we have did not develop overnight and to expect them to right themselves with the click of a clock is simply unrealistic.
Again the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 12:2, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” The objective is to be transformed – past tense – but the process is by the renewing – present tense – of our minds. We will always to be in the process of renewal, less about a destination and more about destiny.
With this is mind, I call on all of you to trade in the New Year’s Resolution for the Grace Revolution. The Grace Revolution is based on a complete turning over (revolution) from one state to another, but through grace, not law. It means that we need to realize going in that we will make mistakes. Expect to fall off the wagon, if fact, plan on it; and don’t just plan on it, plan FOR it.
I have taught the Dave Ramsey “Financial Peace University” course over a dozen times and one of the many things I like about it is that he makes you budget for your mistakes. He calls it “blow” money – for when you blow it. This is the grace mentality.
It’s probably no wonder why budgets and diets perish early in our list of resolutions. We don’t budget for our failures, perhaps because they have such a stigma attached to them. Yet when you look at truly successful people, you will realize that they all hold the “2,000 ways not to make a light bulb” philosophy close to them. This tenacious spirit will invariably lead to success.
So, plan for your mismanaging of the budget. Cut yourself some slack when your temperature rises a few times in traffic. Allow for habits to develop. Schedule your feasts!
Aim low and short, take baby steps and realize that some of those will be backwards. If you do this day by day, perhaps hour by hour, you will have the privilege of looking up one fine day and realizing that those distant goals that seemed so far off are within arm’s reach after all.
All children skin their knees, some of us more than others. Regardless, they all have one thing in common – they grow. That growing cannot be rushed, only time will cultivate your harvest. So, instead of being frustrated over what you may see as a lack of progress, enjoy the journey and, I bet by this time next year, many of those seemingly insurmountable mountains will have indeed been removed and cast into the sea!
To all: Happy New Year.