It’s that time of year again… You know what I am talking about… Today is the first day of your New Year’s Resolution. Yes, that awe inspiring goal you set that is sure to make you a much better person by this time next year. Maybe you have set out to lose 20 pounds, cut out all sugar, exercise daily, reduce your debt, organize your house or maybe even your life… Oh, I am sure whatever your resolution is, it is a great one.
Now the question is, will it be a successful one? Of course on January 1st, we all say, of course I will be successful. We wouldn’t dare go into our resolutions with a defeatist attitude, would we?!? But the sad truth of the matter is that only about 8% of people actually keep their New Year’s Resolutions.
There are many reasons why this is true, from jumping in cold turkey to lack of a feasible plan to it just isn’t possible in our current stage of life. I think for many of us, our year is a bit like a roller coaster. We spend January forcing ourselves up that steep incline, probably repeating “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can,” pushing toward our resolution, only to make it to February – and if you are lucky, March – and plunge to our unsuccessful doom of yet another unrealized New Year’s Resolution. And then our year is a year of ups and downs, twists and turns, and unexpected loops, much like the year before. And if you are like me, you feel worse than you did when you started. You feel like a failure instead of acknowledging the fact that you even tried.
Well, enough is enough! I am done with New Year’s Resolutions and I hope you are too. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not finished with new beginnings. The scripture tells us that His mercies are new every morning and we should take full advantage of that. His grace is never ending so we are never too late for a fresh start. But this whole idea of picking one day of the year to change the way we do things is a bit unrealistic and overwhelming.
I am here to propose a solution. I want us to rethink resolutions and start focusing on pragmatic practices. First of all, to practice something means we don’t have it right to begin with. We must practice to get better and better, so having a bad day is expected. But also think about those who have mastered a skill… they still practice in order to maintain or possibly even improve their level of mastery.
So yes, I can practice. Each day I can do something a little better than the day before. Each day I can look at my mistakes from the previous day and determine what I can do a little better. I can practice.
But I want that practice to be pragmatic – sensible, efficient, realistic. If my goal is to run a half-marathon by the end of the year (and yes that would be one of those unachieved resolutions) I can’t start out practicing with a run of 10 miles. On the very first day, I will feel like a loser because I didn’t make it anywhere near my goal. As I practice, it needs to make sense for where I currently am in my life, whether that be with endurance or anything else that would affect my practice. Honestly, when I started running, each day I wanted to make sure I ran further than the day before. That was good enough for me.
So this year, even if you have already “started” your New Year’s Resolution, I want you to ditch it for Pragmatic Practices. It’s not too late to develop a plan, figure out what baby steps you need to take and practice gradually each day. It is a whole lot easier to think about practicing to be a better person – whether through health, fitness, finances, or whatever – than it is to resolve to just be a better person, starting today – no matter what!
But before you get too carried away with that plan of yours, listen to one more thing. Health, fitness, finances, all those are important things. All those influence our quality of life – here on earth – but they are not the most important thing, nor do they influence our eternal quality of life. So, as you think about a pragmatic practice you would like to develop, think a little higher than what we see in the mirror or in black and white (or red) in our checkbook. Think in terms of your spiritual well-being. I can make a promise, if you are practical about your spiritual practices, and every day you seek to be better than the day before, then those other things – health, fitness, finances, whatever – will come into focus and begin to improve as well.
Hopefully, you are now cataloging your brain, trying to figure out which spiritual areas need the most work or which areas would be the best place to start your pragmatic practices. Let me help you. There is a section of scripture that I feel is definite #goals for a Christian. It describes what we are continually striving for. It describes habits – practices – a quality of life I think all Christians are after. I am going to leave you with that section of scripture to read and ponder over, and the rest of this month I am going to touch on each of the areas the scripture mentions and talk about how we can develop pragmatic practices to gradually improve our spiritual relationships. I don’t want this to be a jump-in-head-first kind of thing. I don’t want you to be seeds on rocky soil. I want us to gradually develop these lasting practices so that we can develop deep roots along the way. I want …
“God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light”
So, this week, think about this scripture. Begin thinking about baby steps we can take, aspects we can practice each day, to put us closer to this mark. This is a gradual journey up the mountain with rest stops, dips in progress, and beautiful views – not a roller coaster ride filled with a steep incline only to be dropped and thrown in every direction. You don’t need a safety harness this year, only a pair of pragmatic shoes to wear as we practice along this journey.