I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions. They’re almost a joke. Nearly everyone makes them, but very few follow through. Maybe they should be called New Year’s Intentions. We intend to make changes, but we rarely have the fortitude to stick with it. But we try, because a new year seems like a great time for a fresh start. We are filled with hope. We are inspired by the thoughts of renewal. Christmas isn’t the only religious holiday. God is in all things, especially the business of renewal. And God is the author of hope.
On New Year’s Eve, I got a mailer from Weight Watchers because they know that this time of year everyone vows to lose weight. It’s a universal thing. People decide to start exercising, to drop 20 (or 30 or 40) pounds, to drink more water. There are other resolutions – to stop smoking, to stop spending money, to stop drinking. But mostly, we focus on earthly things, battles of the flesh that we need to overcome. We always start with hope that we can finally conquer these issues. This will be the year! But the problem is we’re focusing on the flesh, not on the spirit. Each of these items has a spiritual parallel, so maybe that’s where we should begin.
Are we carrying around too much weight? It’s not just an extra 20 pounds that makes us unhealthy. It’s the excess baggage. The resentment that festers and damages our hearts. The hatred. The judgment. The fear. All the ugliness that holds us hostage, keeps us in bondage, and breeds even more fear. Maybe the most important weight to lose is that. And maybe, once our spirits are right, our bodies will follow suit. After all, we will no longer eat out of desperation or loneliness or depression, because we will have allowed God to fill those holes. We need to take control of what we feed ourselves. Does it nurture us or simply temporarily fill an emptiness?
Going along with weight loss is exercise. It’s not enough to control what goes in; we also have to strengthen our hearts, lungs, muscles. In order to function in the way God designed them, our bodies need regular workouts. So do our spirits. Just like physical exercise, sometimes it is hard to get started. It hurts, because we’re not used to doing these things. We need to pray until it becomes natural. We need to expose ourselves to the Word until it becomes familiar. We need to make a concerted effort to work at it, and when it becomes easy, we need to step it up a notch and push ourselves even more.
Years ago, at a New Year’s Eve party, several of us declared our resolutions. Every one of us vowed to drink more water — it finally became a joke. But isn’t that what we all need? Not just any water, but living water. The water of eternal life. The water that finally quenches our thirsts, that finally satisfies. The water promised by Jesus. So this year, go ahead and make resolutions if you must. But maybe the best way to start is by drinking deeply in the Spirit. Then the rest will come.