Have you started your list of resolutions for 2022 yet? Have you broken any of those resolutions already?
To be honest, making resolutions doesn’t work for me, and especially New Year’s Resolutions.
Making New Year’s resolutions is like trying to squeeze myself into someone’s bright idea for self-help that is supposed to create some magnificent change in my life. It never does, and I realize again and again that I absolutely don’t fit into these pre-fab great movements everyone embarks on to create life-changing modifications of behavior.
Has making resolutions worked for you? If it does, great! If making resolutions doesn’t work for you, I invite you to step back and take in the broader picture: eternity. It might just turn your idea of the value of resolutions on its head.
Resolutions Assume You Know What’s Best for Your Future
To start with, resolutions are most often about getting you somewhere: a more healthy, beautiful, prepared, financially situated, culturally engaged you. As a Christian, however, you can’t know for sure what will be the right plan for your future. Why do I say this?
Christmas, which we just celebrated, is about the Son of God being born in the “fullness of time.” From this statement of Saint Paul in his letter to the Galatians, we learn: God’s timing is always perfect. His divine plan is loving and proceeds in perfect time. God is always right on time and just in time.
However, to take in the whole picture with faith, we believe Jesus was born in the fullness of time, and his parents had to leave home to Bethlehem for a census, and there was no room for them to stay for the birth of the Child, and it was the animals and shepherds who attended the Prince of Peace in his first hours on earth, and his life was endangered by an angry King jealous for his power as Mary and Joseph fled with him to Egypt…. Every plan Mary and Joseph may have had for the birth of their Child was way too small in the face of the loving designs of the Father for the birth of his Son in the fullness of time.
Resolutions Are Our Plans Our Way
When I get in my resolution-making mood, which I occasionally still do, my mind gets very strategic and my will determined to decide to do or not to do something that will change my life so that I will be happy. The problem is that my vision of what will make me “happy” is often short-sited and distorted.
Consider the crucifixion of Jesus. It certainly seemed to be the wrong event happening at the worst time. A “perfect” plan would have been for Jesus to solidify his small group of apostles and ensure they had the power and the skills to accomplish his plan into the future. Instead, the death of Jesus seemed, on a human level, to make no sense. His life ended on Calvary, his disciples scattered, his vision for the restoration of humanity seemed to have come to nothing… In fact, it is just this interpretation that we hear from the lips of the frustrated disciples making their way to Emmaus after Jesus had died.
And yet the crucifixion of Jesus was absolutely perfect in the mysterious plan of the Father.
The problem with “resolutions”—at least when I make them—is that I am trying to bring about a future that I think is the best and most advantageous for myself. And to do it my way, on my timing, to accomplish what I have determined to be the most perfect outcome for my future.
And this is precisely why they never work for me. They are my resolutions my way.
Mary and Joseph had to leave behind all their preparation and plans and projections, as holy and beautiful as they may have been, and place themselves in the trajectory of what the Spirit was bringing about in order to orchestrate the Father’s plan with perfect exactitude.
Mary and Joseph embraced God’s holy future, and they were swept up into the spontaneous, surprising purpose of God who does nothing by mistake, nothing without design, nothing without love.
You Are an Indispensable Part of God’s Plan
As Philip Krill states: “All those chosen and elected by the Trinity, and baptized into Jesus, are actors, together with Christ, [and Mary and Joseph] in the great theo-dramatic plan of the Father’s mysterious will. Every saint has his or her special part to play. Each of us is an individual member of the Body of Christ. We are as ingredient to Christ ‘coming to full stature’ as were all the great saints of the past. We stand fore-square among them, mid-stream, as it were, in the endless line of those ‘streaming towards the mountain of the Lord’ (Isa. 2:2-3)…. Our identity in Christ is that of persons in transit. We are on the way to the Lord, in the great company of all His saints” (Philip Krill, Before the Foundation of the World: Encountering the Trinity in Ephesians 1, ebook page 45 of 111).
This year, don’t settle for resolutions that aim at a future too small for your dignity as a member of Christ’s Body (like losing weight, reading more books, cleaning out the garage, embarking on an exotic vacation). Like Jesus, like Mary and Joseph and all the saints, allow yourself to be swept up into the purposes of God for your life. Your identity, your mission and purpose in life, is some specific role as one of the members of Christ’s Body.
Before you make resolutions to fix, modify, or improve aspects of your personality, skills, physical appearance, or health, remember this: you can be certain that you have been fitted specifically with gifts and talents, weaknesses and strengths, liabilities and skill-sets that equip you perfectly to perform the role that has been preordained for you from the foundation of the world by the Father.
You are an indispensable instrument of God’s plan and in perfectly surrendering to the divine flow of God’s love, as mysterious and incomprehensible as it sometimes appears, you will find your happiness.
Resolutions often target weaknesses in order to turn them into strengths so we can become or appear to be who we want to be. However, mystery and divine providence often rely specifically on our weaknesses to be the places where the glory of God shines through as we play our part in the drama of the mysterious plan of salvation.
Life is Mystery
In the end, life is Mystery: not perplexing confusion, but the Wisdom that is larger than our strategies, the Future that is greater than our projects, the Love that will encompass all of our potentials.
Mystery means God has a plan for you that is perfect in every way, a plan that can encompass and save even suffering and disappointment.
Mystery means God will use you just as you are for a plan that has existed since before the foundation of the world and will exist into the unending future of the eternal kingdom.
Mystery means your life has a purpose fitted specifically to you, a purpose for which no one can replace you. It is a purpose that unites you to the communion of saints.
Mystery means that God will take care of “growing” you into the full stature of Christ so that you can ever more graciously and completely take up your place in the mysterious plan of salvation that is unfolding day by day.
Mystery means that even your designs for your life will be lifted up into God’s loving plans if you don’t insist on them too much, at the expense of all that the Holy Spirit is bringing about. In the end, God will set you down again on the roads of your earthly plans, once you have been purified.
Mystery means God’s timing is always perfect. His divine plan is loving and proceeds in perfect time. God is always right on time and just in time.
Resolutions are too small for you. Okay, you may want to note a few things to tackle in order to live with greater awareness and intention, but the resolution that is the most important one to make at every moment of every day is this: like Mary and Joseph embrace God’s holy future, and consent to be swept up into the spontaneous, surprising purpose of God who does nothing by mistake, nothing without design, nothing without love.
Happy New Year!