Wednesday, January 13, 2016

New Year's "Resolutions"

You may or may not know that my preferred exercise is rowing.  I’ve always loved boats and being on the water, though that has nothing to do with my preference for rowing since I row in my basement on a machine and not on the water.  But that’s not important right now.  To date I have rowed more than 10,000,000 meters.  One year I rowed so much that I averaged a 10k every day of the year!
Alas, last year I did not visit my erg nearly so often.  The scale is creeping up.  The belt is getting a little tighter, and I know I have to do something.  I need to get back in shape.  So on January 1 I set about exercising for a minimum of 30 minutes every day.   So far so good.
If you visit any given fitness facility, you’ll know that I’m not alone in setting fitness goals for this year.   Those machines are least for now.
We call them “New Year’s Resolutions.”  It’s the laundry list of things we’d like to improve about ourselves.  Eat a few more salads.  Don’t stay up so late.  Call home more often.  Have family dinners.  I’ll pause here while you add your own to the list.
Apparently this promise-making at the turn of the new year can be traced all the way back to the Babylonians, with many parallels throughout history.  I think it’s because we’re wired that way.  We know we need to improve, and it seems the beginning [of the year] is a very good place to start.  ABC.  Do-re-mi.  You know what I mean.
The best laid plans…  In 2007, a study of about 3000 folks determined that 88% of New Year’s Resolutions fail.  Kindof makes me think we shouldn’t use words we don’t understand (because a resolution is a firm commitment, and an 88% failure rate seems to indicate these “resolutions” are anything but!).  And we know we’re going to fail.  In the same study, about half of those who made resolutions fully expected them to fail at the outset!  Maybe we should call them New Year’s Aspirations.  What’s more, we so thoroughly know that we are going to fail that during this time of year social media light up with hints and methods to keep your resolutions aspirations.  Heck, I think one of my resolutions aspirations next year will be to read some of those articles to try to keep my resolutions aspirations! 
Why on earth do we do this to ourselves?!  Because somewhere, deep inside, we know we are capable.  As hokey as it sounds, we know, way down in places we don’t talk about at parties, that we are good.  We are better than we what we have become.  If we are honest, we see our faults and our failures.  We lament the way they have come to control us and even define us.  And we want to be better than that.  I think that’s why many people make resolutions that involve the church.  Attending.  Giving.  All in an effort to convince ourselves that we aren’t who we are afraid we’ve become.
The Bible says we are made in God’s image.  I don’t think that means we look like him.  It might, I guess.  Frankly I have no idea.  But to me, being made in God’s image means that we are born with something of God’s goodness.  Inside of us.  The “better us.”  It’s the still small voice or the angel on the shoulder that affirms us when we choose well and convicts us when we miss the mark.  And it offers us assurance that even if we fail, we will never be a failure.  Because next year one of two things will be true.  Either we will have succeeded in keeping our resolutions to be better, or we will rise from the ashes of our ruined resolutions to embrace the better us once more.

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