So how is your New Year’s resolution going?
A New Year’s resolution is a tradition across all socioeconomic and geographic boundaries that is intended to change a particular trait, or behavior.
This tradition originated with the ancient Babylonians such that the people would promise their gods that they would return borrowed items and pay their debt(s). In the tales of Gilgamesh, the paired deities are described as guarding doorways and the gateway to the underworld.
In the culture of what was considered the Roman Empire, the New Year began with atonement to the Roman’s god, called Janus and for whom the month of January is named. Janus was considered to be the god of the passageway to heaven (known as spiritual portals), as well as the point of origin of the beginning and the end of time. Therefore Janus is depicted in artwork as two-faced, as facing the origin and the end of time.
In Egyptian culture, this god is described as the ferryman in terms of functionality, but not in name.
The god Janus is ritually invoked at the beginning of each ceremony by priests of the Occult, as a governing figure between mortals and deities, the one who is positioned at the epicenter of the universe and the governor of portals. Coins were used to cover the eyes of the dead, or placed in the mouth of the deceased to pay the ferryman, called Charon from Greek mythology, for the purpose of the transition from this life to the after-life.
Christians call this passage “translation,” with Christ having paid the ultimate price for the salvation of many, Christ who is the Alpha and Omega — the beginning of all things and the coming reckoning of the second Advent.
“Then He said to me, ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of water of life without cost.'” Rev 21:6
And… “We who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the LORD in the air, so we shall always be with the LORD.” 1 Thessalonians 4:17.
Matthew ties the meeting in the air to the Second Advent (Matthew 26:64) in addition to the concept of “being translated” or passage between this life and the after-life.
The passage that Jesus describes is the one way, the narrow gate… “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except by me.” John 14:6
So when we make promises to ourselves if we are Humanists, or Janus if of those religious persuasions, or the LORD if we are of the Jewish or Christian tradition, then we create a certain expectation.
Some expectations are unrealistic, which set us up for failure. Some border on the miraculous. I suspect it is because of the times in which we live. In the current era, people follow the same sort of traditions borrowed from the ancients, meaning returning items that did not belong to them and paying debts, but focus more on the things of the flesh. How our bodies look, empowerment in all sorts of categories in our sphere of influence, affluence, power and control are our interests.
But God is not the host of “Let’s Make a Deal.” He demands unconditional love and loves us unconditionally. There are no halfway measures.
There is no spiritual fire insurance after all.
The New Year’s resolution is about change and change reminds us about our own mortality. It is not what we do in our own strength that empowers us toward change, it is about where we place our trust.
Trust in a personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe, who knows our failures and our disappointments. It is He who never leaves us or forsakes us, walking with us through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, even when we withdraw from Him. He never gives up on His people, especially when we have given up on ourselves. He is with the woman who cannot seem to find the beauty within her. He is with the soldier who cannot shake the persistent terrible nightmares of war and the night sweats that accompany the event. He is with the person contemplating suicide. He is with the child who has survived unimaginable abuse.
There are things about ourselves that we just cannot fix on our own; we need to let go of our pride and be ourselves with Him. He knows our heart, which is something that we ourselves may not know entirely.
Let us consider some New Year’s resolutions:
1. Start the practice of meditation — Have a daily devotion using the Word of God, pray and keep a journal of the issues before you and how God responded.
2. Learn something new daily — This is dedicated to understanding God’s world and how it works.
3. Learn to stand down — This is about relaxation, doing something you enjoy, perhaps a walk in the cool of the evening with God. No one can work 24/7 and have longevity. But in this age, people live in a constant state of emergency. This lifestyle causes them to become ill.
4. Periodically fast — Lent is a perfect time to do a “partial fast.” That is to give up a favorite food or drink and is not generally disruptive to daily living. Another description of the partial fast is to give up one meal, or snacks, during the day. For some people, a physician should be asked to give advice regarding this fast. Any total fast should occur only under the direction of a medical doctor.
5. Help — Volunteer your time, talent and/or treasure. Use your creative abilities in making a needed contribution in the community.
6. Read more books — There are many fine Christian books out there, along with other fine works that are available at your local library and online.
7. Make an attitude adjustment — Express an attitude of gratitude. Let people in your lives know you appreciate them and what they do, especially what we take for granted.
There are many more, but you get the idea. Each resolution forms a partnership with God and is realistic in scope.
So how is your New Year’s resolution going?
Are you still on track, or did you give up? Was your resolution unrealistic in terms of expectations? Or were each of the goals, the waymarks, attainable and reasonable? Or has guilt and shame crept in with depression and other unwanted results?
God has a plan for each life regardless of the faith, or lack of faith, of the individual. When we partner with Him, He is faithful to complete the work that He has begun in us.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
Happy New Year! Make your lives extraordinary and in accordance with His plan.
Finding Faith is written by area pastors. This week’s column comes from Rev. Dr. Bryon Reynolds of Charlton Chapel.