Monday, December 31, 2012

Resolve or Repent

Mechanical egg timerNew Year's resolutions are notoriously short-lived.  Most of mine have had a 2 week shelf life.  There was a decade in my life where my resolutions revolved around three things.  Looking at the scale, inevitably up from the year before, I'd resolve to lose weight.  Staring around at the stacks of clutter and mounds of dirt, I'd resolve to be better at dealing with my household chores. Finally remembering the panicked pulling together of some last minute school project or paperwork, I'd resolve firmly to stop procrastinating.  Can you imagine the result?  

There was no result.  Each year my waistline grew.  Each year my ridiculously bad housekeeping left me swirling in a downward spiral of guilt.  Each year I fell victim to the evils of procrastination. These three things were unifying to strangle the life out of me, almost literally. I wasn't happy with my body, my house or my job. What was I doing wrong?  

People gain weight for a wide variety of reason. Commonly, people have trouble keeping up with their bills, dishes, vacuuming, projects and paperwork.  But for me there was only one reason that I was struggling with these three things.  At the heart of this variety of bad habits was a single unifying sin - a serious lack of self-control.

Year after year as I faced off with the problem, I did not recognize the source.  I supposed that I need a different diet, a new strategy, a little better time management.   In the time since I had been born again, self-control, one those basic fruits of the Spirit, was simple not evident in me (Galatians 5:22-25). A New Year's resolution wouldn't do the job. I needed to repent.

I looked at my house, my job, my weight and said "That's just the way I am." Not only is that a lie but it implied that any attempt to solve the problem was useless.  At other times I tried to talk myself into putting in more effort.  As if by working harder, I could succeed on my own.  Not only is this also a lie but each time I failed, I felt even more hopeless and guilty. Repentance frees us with this truth: sinners require a Savior. 

Repentance differs dramatically from resolution.  Resolutions are what I make if I think I can pull myself up by my own power out of the mire I have created. Resolutions in no way imply I have done something wrong nor that I need God to fix it.  For example, a New Year's resolution to take up a woodwind does not suppose I am a bad person for my lack of flute playing, nor that I need divine intervention to begin to play.  (Although due to my renowned lack of talent in all things musical, divine intervention might be in order!) 

We live in a world that encourages us to think of our problems as either an illness or a lack of information. However I didn't need medicine.  I wasn't depressed or suffering from ADD.  I didn't need a new plan either.  There wasn't a diet I could stick to or a time management scheme that worked for me.  Peter's words made the issue painfully clear. 

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins (2 Peter 1:5-9).
I should have been diligently adding self-control and perseverance to the more obvious fruits like knowledge and love. By gaining these attributes and increasing in them, Peter promises that I will be "neither useless nor unfruitful."  However by ignoring them, I am "blind and short-sighted" and worse I have forgotten my purification from my former sins.  Ouch.

That decade of resolutions has faded into memory, but some things have not changed.  I loved Jesus.  I wanted to follow him.  I went to church. All still true.  I read my Bible but not in a particularly disciplined way. Unfortunately still true. What has changed?  My approach-these days I better recognize the work of Satan.  I pray, I confess and I repent.  I do not assume that I can handle it, it will go away, or it's no big deal.  I don't drown in guilt or feel horrible.  I trust in the great grace of God and His unending patience. I know that as I submit to His will He is growing me into the woman He has always wanted me to be. To paraphrase John Newton, I am a great sinner, but I have a great Savior. 

Please don't hear me to say that this year you shouldn't make any New Year's resolutions. I will.  You should too! Nor that all your problems are the result of sin and need to be taken to the cross. But I'll be taking a cold hard look at my resolutions and making sure that I don't need to repent instead.  How about you?

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

No comments:

Post a Comment