Old Year Resolutions

January 1, 2015

Old Year Resolutions…

Let’s be contrarian shall we? While everyone is busy about the business of setting goals, making resolutions, joining health clubs and smoking their “last” cigarette, why don’t we try something different? We’ve nothing to lose. Those who track such things tell us that the prospect for success in respect to achieving well-intentioned resolutions is somewhat slim. This from Vox.com:                 

                  The most rigorous study of New Year's resolutions, conducted by researchers at the University of Scranton, shows a steep drop off in how long New Year’s resolutions stick around. Seventy-seven percent of the resolvers studied made it through a full week, and then 55 percent stuck with their goals for a month. By June, six months into the New Year, only 40 percent of those who had made a New Year's resolution were still sticking with the goal.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all over a person taking some time to reflect, to dream, to stand naked in front of a mirror and say, “Yikes”, and to sketch out a preferred future. So, if you’re one of the 40 per centers, then God bless you Sir, or Madam, and Godspeed … and go ye. But for the rest – the dispirited, disillusioned, knuckle dragging 60 per centers whose life looks remarkably similar – if not worse – than January 1 of the previous year, I wish to offer the aforementioned contrarian suggestion.

With each passing year, it has begun to dawn on me that one of the primary reasons we make so little progress with our future is because we’ve not made peace with our past. This can have all sorts of deleterious effects on our prospects. I have read quite a bit of literature from those in the field of medicine and mental health and there seems to be an emerging consensus that stress is toxic to our emotional, relational and physical health. One writer said that our stress has to go somewhere and that our mind, like a traffic cop, will wave it through and park it somewhere in some part of our body. I’ve not the time to describe all of what I have read, but on a personal note, I can report that when I have dealt with stress in a healthy way, (i.e. acknowledging it, sharing it with God and allowing it to cycle completely through) I have found that all sorts of aches, headaches, pains and discomforts simply disappear.

So, what is stress? I will offer a few thoughts in broad strokes. Stress is: 1) Refusing to deal with something that I have done for which I am ashamed; 2) Refusing to let go of something which was done to me; 3) Refusing to acknowledge the mistakes I have made, the opportunities squandered, the relationships fractured, and the subsequent consequences of the aforementioned; 4) Fear – fear of being exposed, fear of loss, fear of an unknown future and fear mixed with frustration at not being able to control all events and all people at all times.  5) Sin – rightly translated as “missing the mark” of God’s purpose for my life. 

We could add to this list, but if you look it over carefully, I believe you’ll find it a rather decent summary of those areas that can coagulate the lifeblood of life. To put it simply, we were not created to drag around a monstrous chunk of a past replete with failure. We’re just not meant for that.

Now happily, the Christian faith meets this issue of “a monstrous chunk of a past replete with failure” head-on. Our heavenly Father has not designed us to be wretched or to be wretched failures. We’ve some choice in these matters. (Some theologians suggest otherwise, but it makes me curious as to what Bible they are reading). The Apostle Paul, using a thinly disguised scatological analogy to make his point, says this:                

                  But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor…”  II Timothy 2:20,21 

Any guesses as to what Paul is referring to when he mentions wood or clay vessels of dishonor? Think of pre-indoor plumbing and you’ll get it. Yep. He is referring to ye old chamber-pot, thunder-jug, or as the hard-rock miners called them – honey-pots. This is but one example of Paul at his curmudgeonly best. In effect he is saying, “Hey, if your life is in the crapper, or holds a load of the stuff – it doesn’t have to stay that way!” Go Paul.

The word honor in the original means, “a deference one has or obtains by reason of office or rank.” No matter where we are today, no matter the story of our past, we can become a vessel of honor. How? Look again at the passage, “…if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor.”

To become a vessel of honor, we need to be clean. To become clean, we need to come clean. There is no other way.

So, before you write a list for what you hope the year ahead will look like, why not pause - not for a moment, but for a morning - and have a conversation with Father God about all of the unresolved “stuff” of your past. You will find our Lord quite helpful with that sort of thing. And the wonderful thing about beginning this year by looking backwards is this: Our heavenly Father is just as ready as you to shed the intolerable and unnecessary burden of your past and restore your life to its honorable purpose. To walk into the New Year free or regret, guilt, shame, and fear is not a bad resolution.

Much Love,


© Patrick Crossing 2015