ALVEY: Measuring up with those resolutions

Published 8:44 pm Tuesday, January 2, 2018

By JACK ALVEY | St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

According to one study, only 8 percent of people actually keep their New Year’s Resolutions. A lot of people resolve to live a healthier life. Some vow not to eat sugar, go easy on the carbs, and hit the gym.

Others commit to be a better friend or family member. I’ve also known a few who resolve to go to church more! I have resolved to lose 5 pounds by the end of January in hopes the trend will continue throughout the year. I don’t want to set the bar too high!

In theological terms, our New Year’s resolutions are evidence of a law-based culture. In other words, so much of our self-worth is wrapped up in what we do (or don’t do) and in how we measure up to the standard that we or others have set. In a law-based culture, our self-worth is ruined when we don’t measure up. Using New Year’s resolutions as the standard, 92 percent of us are failures.

According to the Christian Gospel that I know, ours is a God who invites us to live in a grace-based culture. Our self-worth is wrapped up completely in what Christ has done — for our lives are hid with Christ in God. God turns failure into an invitation to trust more and more the identity God secures for us in Christ — beloved child of God.

Most of the articles I have read regarding New Year’s resolutions encourage readers to make resolutions that are realistic and attainable. While this approach might satisfy the ego, I invite you to make resolutions that will encourage you to return to God for help and encouragement. I invite you to see the possibility of failure as an opportunity to draw closer to God.

I am reminded of a story where a nun became frustrated with her ability to keep quiet and discern the presence of God in prayer. She confessed that she was a failure. “In 20 minutes, I’ve had 10,000 thoughts!” Her mentor, Father Thomas Keating, responded, “How lovely, 10,000 opportunities to return to God.”

In my experience, any opportunity to return to God is an occasion to grow in God’s love. When I grow in God’s love, I also grow in love for myself and for my neighbor. It is God’s love that gives me the strength to take better care of myself, to be kinder to friends and family ± especially the ones who aggravate me the most! God’s love is what is capable of producing the goals I set for myself. Ultimately, God’s love calls me to chase after what God desires instead of what I want.

When you look back at 2018, my prayer is that you are encouraged and rooted in a God who creates for us a grace-based culture in Jesus Christ — the perfecter and standard of a faith governed by unconditional love.

Regardless how well you keep your resolutions, I pray that you see yourself more clearly as one made worthy of love through Jesus Christ our Lord.