The Failure of New Year Resolutions

It's January 15th.
Have you failed at your New Year Resolution yet?

Now, call me a "glass-half-emtpy" guy, but I feel like our annual resolutions are always doomed from the starting gate.  Much of the reason I feel that this is the case is because our resolutions always seem to be couched in self-willed determination.

"This year -- I will/won't _____________ ."

I think one of the things that the ancient teachers, rabbis, sages, and monks would tell us is that self transformation is not about doing more or trying harder.  It's actually about cutting away and simplifying.  To recall a conversation from Brian McLaren in Finding Our Way Again, the process of transformation includes purgation (purging the excess, unnecessary, and sinful from your life), illumination (letting the truth of God's way illuminate your path), and unification (immersing yourself in God's presence -- as an iron in a fire -- in order to begin taking on His image and be united with Him).

In short, I would say your ticket to becoming a better you is not in doing more or being better.  It is about becoming less and giving God the space to do His work in your heart.

So, instead of making resolutions and vowing to become a person of determination... how about this year, we try to become people of discipline.  We remove some of the unnecessary, we create space for God to move/speak, and we let the discipline and practice make us more like Him.

It will take some intentionality.
But the discipline is our intentional practice of making God a priority -- it turns power loose in our lives.

Maybe it will be some new textual disciplines.  Why don't you make the space for more Text in your life this year?  Read it every day.  Memorize a section every week.  Start writing out a Bible book by hand or by type.  God says that His word goes forth and never returns void; that it always accomplishes it purpose.  He's daring you to trust it.

Maybe it's a season of fasting or a new discipline of feasting.  Maybe you should observe a calendar (Christian, biblical, or personal) with more intentionality.  Not just racing and racing and racing through each new season and school break, but taking in an intentional effort to be more "present" in each moment.  Maybe this needs to be the year of the party -- where you festival and feast like no other.  Celebrate God's goodness.  Let His love change your posture.

Maybe its being intentional about generosity this year.  What if you doubled all your tips in 2013?  How would that change your heart?  What if you practiced more gratitude?  The Jews tried to say 70+ blessings a day.  Try it -- it's hard!

Maybe it's observing a sabbath or making space for silence and solitude.  Maybe it's pilgrimage.  At Impact we have a monthly requirement, what we call a PRD (Personal Retreat Day).  Every staff member is required to take one day a month to go and make space to hear from God.  For me, this is a monthly discipline of silence and solitude which I have combined with pilgrimage.  I go to a mountain and I hike to the top.  Now, I don't think God is more present on mountaintops than other locations, but I do think that when we make a concerted effort to make space for Him we are both more attentive to His voice and He honors our attempts to "be" with Him.

I have recently returned from a mountaintop where I have met with God.  I wouldn't begin to say this experience happens every time I journey to a mountain, but it has happened enough that I make it a regular practice in my life.  Those kind of experiences change a person -- and it's a whole lot more fulfilling than a gym membership (not that those are bad, good physical health is a part of our walk with God as well).

So this year, let's make a belated resolution to throw off resolutions.
Let's become people of discipline and of a radical pursuit of a God that changes hearts.
God doesn't need you to become a better person this year.  He needs you to become more available.