Why do we do it? Seriously, why do we heap boulders of expectation—because that’s truly what they are—on ourselves every January 1? Maybe it’s the lights, decorations, and happiness that goes hand-in-hand with Christmas. Our spirits rise and we think, “This is it. This is the year.” Hurrah! With gusto, we jump on the bandwagon of starting afresh and being improved. New gym memberships soar. The larder is emptied of food that is not healthy and is re-stocked with the latest and best-for-you ingredients. And with a Teddy Roosevelt “Huzzah!” we go charging into the sunset with the grandiose ideals of being a better person with a better body and a mindset filled with kinder and more gentle thoughts.
And some of those things are achievable. Habits can be formed if held to religiously for twenty-one—some believe sixty-six—days. With the motivation of feeling better, clothes fitting more nicely, or the need for improved health, those goals can be met with the support of family and friends. But we are often awakened to the reality that those more elusive dreams of being a better person—even though they feel attainable—are beyond our grasp. Not even just a little, but light years away.
It doesn’t take much for most of us to experience those moments where we fall short. Mine happen in so many places but especially when I’m behind the wheel. No road rage or anything related, but having lived in the suburbs of, and driven in Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and Boston—terrifyingly fast-paced traffic where the horn is your friend—that lovely button in the center of the wheel has almost become another one of my appendages while I’m driving. My peaceful disposition seems to be trumped by my need to tell people how to use their vehicle more smartly, less dangerously, and with more efficiency. I’ll often look over to find my husband, Jerry, shaking his head, smiling at me affectionately, while fighting off any hint of my own smile because I’m busted, as my justifiable-in-my-head-response of “What?” sputters from my mouth.
Pressure points. We all have them and no matter how much we try not to react when they are pushed, we somehow do, all the while watching our good intentions fly out the window. Even when we don’t say anything, hidden mean thoughts can remain. But other times, well-positioned words delivered with the exact right twist, hit home bringing another person down.
Have you ever played the game at Chuck-E-Cheese where you hit the groundhog with a mallet as its head pops out of different holes? What’s lurking in our hearts resemble those groundhogs. Appearing at the most inopportune times like that animal coming up from the ground, we try to hold in what we don’t want seen, stomp it down, or pretend it’s not there. But it is, and we all know it. What a dilemma.
But what a delightful one it is for when we realize how utterly bereft we truly are, it’s then that we see:
~ we can’t change ourselves,
~ we can’t fix our hearts,
~ that we are in desperate need of a Savior, seeing maybe for the first time why Jesus came.
Not to judge, not to condemn, but to help us by saving us.
~ Pouring His goodness into us while taking the sin inside us, onto Himself. Taking that sin to the cross, He destroyed its power over us when God raised Him from the dead.
~ Delivering us from the chains of self that so easily entangle and bind us.
~ Giving us clean hearts.
This is what the Gospel is all about. This is the Good News! Grace upon grace, Jesus not only died for us, taking our sin and giving us in exchange, His righteousness, but also in every situation doing for us what we can’t do for ourselves. When we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13 ESV). When we find we want to do what is right, but can’t; when we want to do what is good, but don’t; and when we don’t want to do what is wrong, but do it anyway, Jesus is the only one who can free us from this vicious cycle (Romans 7:18b-19 NLT). Jesus in our hearts is our only hope of glory (Colossians 1:27 TLB).
Thank God, New Year’s Resolutions don’t work. For it is in their failure to do so that points our hearts to the Lord.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” -Matthew 5:3 (ESV)
Hallelujah and Amen!