(By Heather Marshall)
How is 2022 progressing for you so far? Did you set some New Year’s resolutions? According to a Finder’s survey from 2021, 74% of Americans were looking to do something new in the New Year. The top categories for New Year’s resolutions were health, self-improvement, money, and family.
I don’t entirely know why, but somewhere along the way, New Year’s resolutions have gotten a bad rap in my books. Maybe it has something to do with my track record in actually fulfilling my resolutions and the shame and guilt I felt over being unsuccessful.
I am not alone in my history of not keeping New Year’s resolutions. The same Finder’s survey reported that after 1 week, 75% were still continuing with their resolutions, after 2 weeks 71%, after 4 weeks 64%, and after 6 months, only 46% were still continuing.
The story is not all bad when it comes to New Year’s resolutions. The survey also found that for people who had similar ambitions but did not set resolutions, only 4% were still going forward after 6 months (compared to 46% for those who made resolutions). This shows that setting resolutions can be helpful in the long run.
I believe that God is in support of resolutions to do new things, especially when the resolutions propel us toward His heart. In Isaiah 43:18-19 we read about Him doing a new work for His people, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you now perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wilderness.”
In Ephesians 4:22-24 we read about His desire for us to put on the new self and to be made new in the attitude of our minds. “You were taught, with regard to your former way of self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
So, if resolutions are generally a good concept and God supports doing a new thing, where do we veer off track? I was asking myself the same question and started my exploration with looking up the meaning of the word resolution. In the context of New Year’s resolutions, it means a firm decision to do or not do something. That doesn’t sound so bad, so why hasn’t it worked for me?
My eye wandered to other meanings of the word resolution and I had an ”aha” moment. The use of the word resolution in reference to the resolution of an image struck me. A high resolution image is one that is made up of a greater number of pixels resulting in an image that is clearer and crisper and more distinct.
If my life’s goal is to be more conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29), so that He is clearly on display (like a high resolution photo), then maybe focusing on the multitude of pixels that make up His image is the place to start. I can relate these pixels to small changes that I commit to daily. Instead of making big resolutions, I can choose to make regular, small changes that, when added together over time, create a clearer image of Christ in my life.
It turns out that God also supports this idea of small resolutions. In the book of Zachariah, we read about a leader from the tribe of Judah and a descendent of David named Zerubbabel who was tasked with the project of rebuilding the Jewish temple. The first temple had been destroyed and now they had to start virtually from scratch. The scope of this task was likely overwhelming to Zerubbabel and the Jewish people, but in Zechariah 4:10, God says, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.”
In the Old Testament, the temple was the place where God met with His people. In the new covenant, we are the temple of God’s Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). Just as God rejoiced over the small beginning of rebuilding the temple in Zerubabbel’s time, we can be sure that He rejoices over small daily choices that we make to draw closer to Him and to His heart.
“Dream Small” by Josh Wilson is one of my favorite songs and it espouses this very idea of small dreams that accumulate over time into something great.
Don’t buy the lie you’ve got to do it all
Just let Jesus use you where you are
One day at a time
Loving God and others as yourself
Find little ways that only you can help
With His great love
A tiny rock can make a giant fall
So dream small”
My previous way of thinking about resolutions was similar to the task of rebuilding the entire temple: my resolutions were too broad in scope. For example, one year I had the goal to read through the entire Bible, but at that stage in my life, I was not consistently reading a single verse let alone a chapter daily, so reading the entire Bible was, as the old saying goes, “biting off more than I could chew.”
Where to start? A helpful acronym we can use when setting goals or resolutions is SMART. It stands for S-specific, M-measurable, A-attainable, R-realistic, T-timely. I would also suggest that the “S” should also stand for small- think baby steps. What is a small, specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely goal that you can implement today that will result in a clearer image of Christ in your life?
Back to my example of my resolution to read the Bible more, maybe committing to reading one verse a day is a great starting point. Another suggestion is reading or listening to the chapter of the day in the Living Loved Facebook group this year. Or, if prayer is something you want to focus on, incorporate short prayers into your daily rhythm such as when washing the dishes or driving in your car.
The approach of focusing on small changes also applies in the physical realm. Choosing to make small changes to how I steward my body honors God and reflects His character. Some examples might be deciding to move my body by taking a daily walk or making rest and good sleep a priority and starting with a consistent bedtime.
Small resolutions like these are easier to have success with, and once they become a consistent pattern, we can add another new small change. Previously, when my resolutions were too big and I failed to keep them, I would feel ashamed and discouraged and I would inevitably give up. We don’t need to feel ashamed, because not only does God encourage new things, His mercies are new every morning. “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23).
I want to encourage my sisters that making resolutions can be a positive thing to help us progress in our lives and in our walk with God. Small and consistent choices that draw us closer to the heart of God that when added together over time result in a clearer, crisper image of Christ in us, and that is the highest resolution of all!