Twelve days into January, I realize, is a little late to be talking about New Years resolutions. It’s a topic on my mind, however, so regardless of how delayed, typical, or even annoying blogging about it is, I’m doing it anyway!
Things are different this year. Grace is pretty much wrecking my New Years resolutions list-making. I’ve always enjoyed putting pen to paper, highlighting areas of my life that need more intentionality, but it hasn’t been as easy to do at the start of 2014.
It’s not that I think it’s bad to make them; the opposite is true – I still feel that planning is wise (Proverbs 16:3; 21:5; 29:18). Now I wrestle with the more subtle “Why?” questions that surface in the list-making: Do my reasons for wanting to improve in certain areas have to do with me finding life and joy in these hopeful changes? With finding a greater security in my identity? With gaining the respect and admiration that I instinctively crave? These are dangerous questions, and a lot of them have led me to conclude that for many of my resolution-making years, my hope has been in self-improvement more than the gospel.
Chasing grace doesn’t mean I’m trashing the ideas that have come my way for how to better manage my time and home, speak more gently to my children, take care of myself in healthier ways, blog more consistently, and everything else I feel pulled toward in this fresh year. It’s important, I think, to set some goals all while letting God cultivate and deepen the vision he has for my life’s obedience and for me to ponder the small, practical ways that may move me closer to it. I am just afraid that I’ll let my focus on changing keep me from remembering the good news of grace. It’s work, y’all!
Grace doesn’t mean we don’t work at things; it just calls us to a different work than we naturally want to do. It’s an effort to remember the gospel and rest in what has already been accomplished for us – complete soul redemption and all that means for our new identity. The apostle Paul described this remembering process as work, and one of my favorite ways he put it was this:
“For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people,” (1 Timothy 4:10).
This is huge – our striving discussed in the context of the gospel, our toiling and growing mentioned in connection to the Savior who has already brought hope. Our hope isn’t in what our striving produces but it’s ours because of the justification ministered to our hearts through Jesus’ work on the cross. The writer of Hebrews understands the same thing when he talks about striving to enter the rest we’ve been given (Hebrews 4:11). I’ll never stop needing that reminder. The more goals I set, the more I need to hear those words.
“Working to rest” is a concept I’m sure I’ll be struggling all of my days to understand but one I’m praising him for anyway. If I resolve to do anything this year, I want it to be about remembering grace. Grace that makes me ok whether or not I achieve my goals. Grace that still pushes me toward them but covers both my successes and failures. Grace that makes me enough. It only has one source. Thank you, Jesus.