Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Resolve to Keep Your Resolutions

“Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?”  This is the pointed rhetorical question asked by the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 13: 23.  He poses this question to make the point that no more can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots than can people who are accustomed to doing evil change themselves and start doing good instead.  This was primarily applied to Judah, but is instructive to unravelling the plight of human beings in general. 
The seeming desperation and hopelessness of the condition of Judah was aptly captured in Jeremiah 14 where the ravages of a drought made the varied attempts of farmers to cultivate crops frustrating efforts of futility.  This narrative provided an ideal object lesson of the bent to failure of one trying to change one’s self. 
These frustrating efforts of futility that are bent to failure could explain the cynicism with which many persons today view making resolutions at the onset of a new year.   But the good news is that much like the hope of Judah was in God, so in God today there is hope in making good on our new year’s resolutions; resolutions do make sense.  
Furthermore, notwithstanding the seemingly unchanging nature of the Ethiopian’s and leopard’s skins, skin cells change – although in a fundamentally different sense than how it is addressed in scripture, and is especially obvious in snakes that are famous for leaving their remains behind after shedding the old for the new.  It is interesting to note also that it is at this time of shedding that healing to the skin usually occurs.  This phenomenon reveals that it is a natural thing to experience renewal in life.  This renewal is usually present at the making of resolutions.  

Here, however, are a few things to bear in mind when making resolutions: 
Do not limit resolutions to a set time.  Resolutions are not a response to a point in time; it is a response to an undesirable state of affairs at a point in time.  This means that you don’t just make a resolution because a new year is about to begin.  Resolutions are made either because things around you have changed or you have changed.  For example, the expectations of the job may be changed, or your expectations of your job or your life in general have changed.  These changes, like the generation of new cells stimulate the change of a snake’s skin, should inform our perceived need to change how things are done by us.  These changes should determine the resolutions we make. 
Understand why you need to make a resolution.  A resolution is not to be made in response to peer pressure.  Neither should it be done to make a good impression on people.  Reasons like these are superficial and generally not sustainable.  A resolution should be aligned to life goals which will fit it with the general trajectory of your life. 
Resolutions should build you up, not burn you out.  Therefore, make them practical and manageable. 
Resolutions should be measurable.  Here’s a weird truth, if you’re standing in a queue in bank and you see people moving up to the tellers but somehow the line is not moving, though you know it to be otherwise you can’t help feeling like you’re not getting any closer to the time you will actually get through – you want the line to move.  The measured sense of getting closer to the target physically does make you feel a whole lot better, and it makes it less likely that you will feel like you need to come back at a later time.  When you are able to measure your progress it encourages you to persist and not to quit.
Find an accountability partner.  This person should not be a nice, pushover.  It should be someone you respect (maybe a mentor), who is knowledgeable and objective.  You should be satisfied that the individual has your best interest at heart. 
Resolutions should fit.  Resolutions should fit with your time and resource budgets.  They should also fit within you value system.  Without the support of time, resource and values resolutions will atrophy.  Sometimes creating the fit may require you to cut off the cable, change the plan on the phone, change your address, make a standing order arrangement at the bank – or better yet do salary deductions, change the supermarket where you should, break up and replace an existing relationship. 
Make God your primary partner.  Through prayer and diligent study of God’s word, through meditation and loving obedience to God’s will we are assured that all things are possible through Christ who strengthens us. Phil. 4: 13.  We are here reminded of the rich young ruler who went away sorrowful because he was not willing to do as Jesus commanded.  Though Jesus made the point that it was as easy for a rich man to make it into his Kingdom as it would be for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, He ended the statement with the assurance that though with man this is impossible, with God all things are possible.   Mark 10: 27.  He who had the solution to Judah’s severe drought, who has the solution to the rich man’s plight, has the solution to the drought-like frustrations we often face when, on our own, we try to change our lives and make our resolutions work.  Let God lead you to make new resolutions and let him give you the resolve to keep them.