“This year, I’m going to…” I’ve repeated that resolution in a self-affirming voice to myself. I’ve declared my Rubicon crossing many a January and often met the inevitable failure that follows.
From resolutions of learning languages to healthy workout plans, my aspirations, vainly linked to a changing calendar date, have been common. The cycle of commitment and failure and re-commitment is a common battle for many. The emotional frustration can cause you to laugh at yourself or retreat to dark corners of self-condemnation and shame
This repetitive struggle, though common to us, is not found in the writings of the apostles. We don’t find them giving us directives on how to set goals for ourselves and achieve them. The process, though amoral, is probably one of a modern mindset. May I humbly suggest that ideas of persistent goal setting may also have a scent of the all too familiar stench of pride?
We can often find ourselves re-committing to virtues of holiness, self-discipline, or even the common hope of being a better person. At the root of this self-determination are two little lies that can be overlooked.
The first lie is that we have the power to become something other than who we are. I’ve been guilty of sincerely believing that I have the power to produce holiness, discipline, or faithfulness. The truth is that I can’t. I know this on an intellectual plane. In practice, the constant drive to self-construct my success directly alters the influence of the Holy Spirit to change me into the nature of Jesus. Only a full reliance on Him can take me out of my nature into the identity of Jesus. Refusal to release the steering wheel of control many times is why we often return to the place of making bigger and better resolutions.
If I don’t have the power to change myself, then what power do I have? We are given the power to hear and obey the voice of the Holy Spirit. His power in us brings us to the realization of who He truly is. What does daily hearing God’s voice sound like? It sounds like the voice of men and women of God around you. Those who hold a strong relationship with you rooted in love and honor are the very ones God uses to speak to us. Many times because of our familiarity with leaders, we can mistake the directives of God through them as merely their own opinion.
Another lie that drives the resolution to the failure cycle is the desire to gain approval. From one former approve-a-holic to another, let me say this addiction runs deep. So many of our false finish line of success is mere ribbons of praise from people. It is a surprisingly free reality to live unfettered from the approval of minimally concerned spectators. There are only a few people who care about your growth. They should be cherished with authenticity rather than entertained.
So in light of these realizations, I’m resolved not to make a resolution this year. I can’t change me because, in the process of self-reconstruction, I am still the painter and not the canvas. I must fully rely on the Holy Spirit’s daily council. From one decision to the next, I can only acknowledge Him. I don’t say that with austere piety as if I have a unique connection to God’s voice. I literally, decision by decision, acknowledge God’s presence with me and ask for help. (Prov. 3:6) This may seem too simple, but the key to making this working relationship succeed is to work at it consistently. I don’t diminish how I feel under the hopes of appearing pious and holy before God. I humble myself and ask for His direction. As surprising as it may seem, He often asks me for my opinion. I know that God is in not any way swayed out of His character by my finite wisdom, yet I know He desires a relationship. Often God asks me questions to uncover a broken affection. At other times, He truly takes pleasure in what I love to do. Just like a good Father would.
Reading a passage the other day, I was reminded of God’s desire to lead us into a place of shameless living. In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul tells Timothy to “Be diligent to present yourself approved unto God, a workman who does not need to be ashamed.” There is the ripcord that keeps us from crashing into condemnation. We must believe we are truly approved before God. When we place our faith in Jesus, God places Christ’s approval on us. In the same way, he immediately forgave our brokenness, and He immediately made us holy. This work is not only fulfilled in a singular moment, but we continuously live in Christ’s atonement. We are in a constant state of God’s approval. We must be diligent or vigorous in seeing ourselves as God sees us. This is why so much of the New Testament encourages the believer to “be” who we are rather than become who we are not. We must see ourselves as God views us. Believing the truth about who you have been made in Jesus is the key to abolishing the broken cycle of commitment and re-commitment.