With every New Year it seems most everybody is talking about resolutions and goals for the upcoming new year. To one degree or another, there's this hope that 2018 will just be better than 2017. Perhaps it is to feel better, to lose weight, to travel more, to keep a job, to move past tragedy, to find healing. Every year I've had my own list of goals: be a better neighbor, read the bible in a year, to use my vacation days, and so on.
It's noble to say, "I want to take better care of myself this year." And it is good to long for a better year than before. No wonder, then, when we fail at keeping our resolutions or goals we feel shame.
Nonetheless, if you are like me, you persist. But we need to remember a few things.
All that is different between 2018 and 2017 is the hours you were asleep. January 1st is just another day. Life has the ups and downs or the joys and trials. Life goes on, and we cannot escape reality... we cannot escape the habits we've formed over the years. Those habits partially make up the realities we live in.
We need to have new habits if we want to grow and change.
The Christian faith, centered and motivated by Jesus Christ, is a practice shaped faith. God saves us to seek the good of our neighbors and participate in his work in this world (Phil. 4:9;Titus 3;Micah 6:8).
My goal for this year is to grow and become more like Jesus Christ. There are established practices like reading Scripture, prayer, living in community with other Christians, worshiping together and more than forms us into the image of Jesus. The lesson of every resolution-keeping failure is that if you want to form new habits, then you also need to make goals, commit to them, and open yourself up to accountability.
A friend reached out to me asking if I wanted to join them in doing Whole30, which we've done in the past. She sends out regular encouragements and invites you into a support group -- cause you need it.
As my goal is to grow and become more like Jesus, then I need to take his life seriously. When I read the gospels, I see Jesus being very present and undistracted. So what are the new habits I'm seeing to create, which also means what habits am I striving to stop? (The Apostle Paul's language in Galatians, Ephesians, and Colossians is 'put off/put on.')
A few months ago I was reading Andy Crouch's book the Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in its Proper Place, and I was struck at how I used technology. So I'm rereading it this month and seeking to make some technology changes... including deleting the facebook app from my phone.
I want to start off my day with Scripture and prayer, undistracted by the notifications on my phone. It'd be better to read Scripture and pray, while being distracted by my son running around at 6am. This is what Jesus did throughout his earthly ministry. "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he got up, went out, and made his way to a deserted place; and there he prayed' (Mark 1:35). While Jesus even did this at night (Luke 22:39), I'm embracing my fatherhood realities by waking up early to read and pray.
I offer the above as just an example. If you're thinking about goals or resolutions for the new year, spend some time identifying the habits you have to put off in order to put new ones on.