I have never been very good at keeping New Year’s resolutions. Aren’t resolutions, like rules, made only to be broken? In fact because they usually are broken, I am often leery about making goals and resolutions in the first place. I seem to have adopted this philosophy: "Blessed is she who aims for nothing, for she shall never disappoint or be disappointed" or something like that. But I did not always feel this way.
My first and also my most memorable resolution came at the tender age of seven and a half. I had just talked and prayed with my pastor and was getting ready to be baptized. I was quite serious about this new commitment, and in order to help it stick, I vowed never to sin again. That’s right—to never sin again. I even remember an assignment in one of my school classes in which we had to draw a picture of our resolution. In mine, I pictured myself at the front of the church in between the pulpit and the Lord’s Supper table complete with the offering plates on top of it. I guess that was the holiest place of which my childhood mind could conceive.
Now unlike many of the early Christians who often delayed baptism until right before death because they believed that after that first washing away of sins there could be no forgiveness for future sins, I had neither such a developed theology nor any fear of the well of forgiveness drying up right after I took the plunge. Deciding never to sin again simply seemed like the right thing to do, and more than that, I just wanted to make God happy or at least not to make Him sad through any future actions of mine. Of course, as many New Year’s resolutions go, so that one also went.
I have come a long way since that first attempted resolution, whether forwards or backwards though is hard to tell some days. I try to land somewhere in between the child who tries too much and the adult who is too afraid to try. My resolutions are now more manageable and usually predictably attainable. Thus, when I make a vow, it is more likely to be kept but is usually not as ambitious. While I have become much more practical and grounded than my seven-and-a-half-year-old self, I must say that I miss the starry-eyed innocence and optimism that believed such a promise could be kept. I miss the simple discernment that came without having to read or study Romans 6.1-14. Somehow I intuitively knew that sin would not fit in well with my new baptismal life. I miss the simple and yet fervent desire to please God that responded quickly and decisively in obedience and action. Then, I did not have to consult a hundred different commentaries to decide what my opinion was on an issue and thus how I should eventually, not immediately, respond in a given situation.
Don’t get me wrong. I am thankful for all the knowledge passed down through those works, and I certainly would not be the same person without that heritage of wisdom. I guess I am simply saying that there is a great deal to be said for spiritual intuition and for the grateful and rapid responses that can follow it. There is also a great deal to be said for making realistic commitments and keeping them. Faith and wisdom, heart and mind—to see these joined together and to bear fruit in action are truly what I wish to see in my New Year’s resolutions.
So as another year dawns, I find myself once again musing over what areas in my life need to change or improve. While it is scary to make a commitment to try to change, a life without any improvement is truly scarier. My resolutions are not as grandiose as they once were, but I pray that they are equally sincere and, I hope, will be better kept.