By Ward Shope

Recently, I ran across a Peanuts comic where Lucy was distributing New Year’s resolutions she felt would be good for each member of the gang. How freeing it would be to have everyone else adjust their lives this New Year in such a way that my life would be easier! I’m sure that I would behave so much better if I could just get everyone else around me to behave better toward me. Yet, knowing human nature as I do (my nature at least), handing out resolutions for others would probably be about as effective and inoffensive as Lucy receiving a resolution not to be bossy and short-tempered.

So it appears that we are stuck with resolutions for ourselves. There are the usual suspects. Eat better. Exercise moderately. Pet the dog.

It’s amazing how even these very simple things are broken – or are they delayed? – sometimes within hours of having resolved them! And I realize that at the heart of them, it’s the relationship that makes them hard – not the behavior. My relationship to food is often controlled by anxiety. So is my behavior toward exercise, which sometimes leads to compulsive exercising. And I don’t even want to talk about the dog who actually never dislikes me and yearns only for that pat or stroke.

I have the sense that as long as I am just targeting these surface patterns isolated from everything else in my life, there will be no change. Or if there is by pure force of will, it won’t change the quality of my life as a whole, which is really what I want my resolutions to do.

Jesus only ever talks about eating when he’s relating it to our relationship with God (e.g Mark 7:14-23; John 6). Paul only talks about exercising when the goal is pursuing Christ (1 Tim 4:8). It occurs to me that the greatest “resolution” has to do with “loving God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength” (Mattew 22:34-40). It’s a divine relational resolution. And I am convinced that if I pursue this one, everything else will probably fall into place. I will do more than pet the dog. I’ll love my wife, my neighbor, and maybe behave better towards them than if they had handed me their resolutions for me.

This resolution is elusive. I can’t simply “will” it. It requires time spent with Him: reading, thinking (meditating) about what He’s done, praying, worshiping and sharing my life with others. But the result is what every resolution is really about: a quality of life change that lasts forever.