Every year on January 1st, people in our society firmly resolve to make a change in the near year. Some just copy and paste last year’s resolutions: get in shape, pray more, stop smoking, spend more time with family, pay off bills, etc. Others go into uncharged territory, generating new resolutions that they never attempted before.
Whether the resolutions be new or old, they are often self-determined and the means by which they are accomplished are typically self-driven by the individual’s firm resolve to change. The new resolution still utilizes an old pattern for change. This is why so often times “new years resolutions” fail by the time February come along. We joke about this all the time. Unfortunately, something as life-giving as positive change in a new year has become a cynical joke.
For the changes we desire in 2013 to become normative in our lives, we need more than just a “firm resolve” to change individually, but also a community that participates with us in the change. When it comes to addictions, changes in life rhythms, spiritual states, etc. we also need empowerment from the Holy Spirit.
To begin, instead of self-determining what you want to change, spend December (or early January), praying and listening together with a few close friends to what God may want to help you change. Often times we think God wants us to go on a diet from food, when he wants to do a deeper spiritual work in our lives. Be open and obedient to the changes the Lord wants for you in 2013.
Next, have your community support you in these changes. As my pregnant wife often tells me, I am not supporting her desire to eat healthy during her pregnancy when I am smuggling into the house Hagen Daz ice cream. Your community may be your family, your church, or your work place. Instead of them just holding you accountable by constantly pestering you about your resolutions, invite them to actively participate in the resolution in order to embody these new changes in your life.
Finally, the way forward in the spiritual life is a pilgrimage of return. At the beginning of each new year, a practice I have developed is simply renewing my covenant with the Lord by praying a simple covenant prayer like this one:
“Let me be your servant, under your command. I will no longer be my own. I will give up myself to your will in all things. Lord, make me what you will. I put myself fully into your hands; Put me to doing, put me to suffering, let me be employed for you or laid aside for you, let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and with a willing heart give it all to your pleasure and disposal.”