Sorry for the cliché title, but with all the promise and expectation of a new year, I think it’s a fair (and on the nose) question to ask. To put it more broadly, will anything actually be different this year? Judging by the short-lived verbal resurrection of “resolution” for today and the next few weeks, just about everyone is hoping the answer is yes, that there will be change or progress of some kind.
One could argue this desire for progress is driven by cultural belief, or time’s merciless march onward, but I think it is more innate than that. All humans are plagued by constant longing for what could and should be. The scary reality is sure, maybe we actually go to Planet Fitness 3 times a week this year, but have we become more satisfied? The weirdness of a new year, and any milestone moment for that matter, lies within the strange paradox:
Everything is different.
Nothing has changed.
We all feel this tension. In our physical circumstances, but especially in our spiritual life. We know in Jesus we have received life and life to full, but it certainly doesn’t always feel like it. We wouldn’t have New Year’s resolutions if it did. There is an experiential disconnect between what the mind knows and the spirit feels.
I’ve seen this disconnect recently crush a few dear friends of mine. “If I’ve been set free, why do I still struggle to feel value and purpose. Why do I still lust, act selfishly, look for life in temporary pleasure?” These struggles act like mental razors, cutting and tearing at our self-perception. We lose confidence, and even doubt faith. How can I be loved if I’m not making progress? This self loathing is exacerbated at times by community. It’s a nasty undercurrent in Christian circles to expect progress towards holiness, and if someone is not hitting the subconsciously agreed upon behavioral standards, we can be quick to offer correction and subtle if not blatant exclusion. Sure, there is Biblical wisdom that rightly encourages the pursuit of holiness, but progress is and never will be a condition for belonging. I think we miss this. We miss it with our friends, and we even miss it with ourselves. And when we miss it with ourselves, self-loathing becomes the harsh melody to our thought life. It’s a dark spiral, hating the messy parts of our lives until we no longer can see anything else. From personal experience, this is a scary place to be.
I know “self love” is the current cultural trend (see any “fitness” Instagram account and read the captions), but true self love does not come from more progress. It comes from knowing how God sees you and finding Him beautiful instead of merely a means to becoming your ideal self.
I think of this like going to see to the Grand Canyon. Say you get there at night. It’s dark, but you know a mysterious hole in the ground begins a few feet from where you stand. You set up your tent by the edge, and when the sun wakes you in the morning, what’s the first thing you’ll do? Go look at the Grand Canyon! And maybe you hike down into it, all the while staring at massive cliffs of painted color wondering how and why. It’s a fearful and awe-inspiring experience, to feel small in front of something beyond what we can comprehend. The last thing you would ever do is spend the day staring at your feet, counting your steps making sure each falls exactly where you think it should. You wouldn’t do it in the Grand Canyon, but we do this with Jesus. We become more concerned with tracking our progress, and the progress of others, and miss the massive beauty that He is. Our hearts are no longer lifted by His grace because we stare at the ground. We try to find salvation in our own progress instead of His face. If there’s any resolution for this year, it should be to wake every day to see Him beautiful, to do the things that stir our affections for Him. Let Him remind you of who He has to declared you to be. Your eternal reality is actually different. In 2019, it’s time we let that bear on the present. Cheers to the “new you” that’s been there all along.