Resolutions are a Very Good Idea


The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective.” — G. K. Chesterton

Did you make a New Year’s resolution? Did you start afresh about things or did you shrug your shoulders and insist there was nothing to make Jan. 1 different from the day before it? There is something about the energy of the first week of a new year that we don’t want to miss. It’s as if the whole world pauses, reflects, seizes hope and then reaches for grace.

As the year comes to a close and the frenzy of the Christmas season winds into the last few quiet days of December, as light changes and days grow just a little longer, we stop and we look on the life we lived. It’s nearly as natural as breathing. We can’t stop ourselves; we must at least glance backward. The introspective ones among us look long and hard and make lists and amendments. We scrutinize and analyze, try to determine what went wrong, and resolve to make it right. Then, something almost magical happens.

We envision what could be. Maybe it’s something as simple as a new exercise routine or a new diet. Or maybe it’s big. Maybe it’s an overhaul of one’s own soul, a virtue check, a vice purge. Whatever “it” is, the stage where we imagine is one gigantic venture into hope. Can it really be this way? Can I really have new feet, a new backbone, new ears, new eyes? Can I dream a different dream and put those new feet and hands toward making it a reality? Can we start afresh? We can. Because we hope. Lord Tennyson wrote: “Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, ‘It will be happier.’” It is people of faith who walk through that door. People of faith believe that we can be better than we are on the threshold of the new year. People of faith step out in hope, confident that grace will meet them in the doorway.

In the place where hope meets grace, there is God. God is where resolutions become effective. God is where change happens. Grace is the answer to the naysayers, those voices both within and without who say that you cannot start afresh. Grace is the breath of fresh air in April when the resolutions of the new year and even the Lenten promises look like one big heap of failed attempts at perfection. Grace reminds us that His power is made perfect in our weakness and the true growth in holiness is in the soul’s earnest effort. Grace is sufficient. Sufficient? It’s abundant.

It’s true that the turning of a calendar page or the changing of the liturgical season doesn’t suddenly make anything different. The whole point isn’t that the year is new. The point is that we can confidently pen a resolution or two, surrender our will to His, and know that He will make all things new in our souls.