New Year’s Day. It’s the day of the year that we ask one another what our resolutions are. Most have an answer, some grouches say that it’s dumb to make resolutions on this day rather than any other, and some despair of making resolutions because they know they’ll break them.
Regardless of whether you are the majority, the grouch, or the hopeless, today revolves around resolutions. Resolutions are great as they gives us direction, providing the vision to move towards goals. Personally, I have several resolutions that I am looking forward to putting into practice (continuing this blog being one of them).
Yet resolutions can become problematic, particularly when they become efforts to save ourselves. Resolving to exercise in order to stay in shape is a good thing. But putting our hope in fitness and our body image is a mistake. Resolving to read more books and study harder is a good thing. But finding our salvation in knowledge is never going to succeed. Resolving to spend more time with one’s family is a good thing. But seeking answers purely in human relationships will always be insufficient.
When our resolutions become expressions of where our hopes lie, something has gone seriously awry. Into this muddle of hopes/expectations/resolutions, Jesus’s words speak powerfully:
“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” – Mark 8:35
New Year’s Day is often the day that we fall into this trap. It’s the day that we lay out all the ways that we plan to save our lives, to turn things around for the following year. Yet such a path only leads to loss. As we seek to save our lives, we eventually come face to face with our own failures. Perhaps that is the explicit failure to keep a resolution. Or perhaps our initial successes create a wedge of pride that separates us from Christ.
The key, as Jesus expresses it, is not seeking to save our lives but to lose them. However, it is not a meaningless loss. It is not the man who seeks martyrdom for its own sake. This loss of life is surrender, a giving up of the will and the desire for self-preservation to follow Jesus into the depths of life, complete with its joys and its current evils. If we do not get this surrender right, Jesus reminds us that all our efforts will be meaningless.
Resolutions are not bad. By all means, I think we should make them and especially enjoy the fresh start of a new year (I know that I am grateful to leave certain aspects of 2011 behind). But we ought to take care to not make our resolutions our end, nor our salvation. It is only in the act of losing our lives to Christ, submitting our will to his, that we are saved. May we resolve this year to surrender ourselves to Christ that we may be confronted by him and conformed to him.
How do you think we can practically balance surrender to Christ with our New Year’s resolutions? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments…and, if you want, share your resolutions with us while you’re at it!