I was listening to a book called Stretch by Scott Sonenshein. In it, he said the origin of resolutions came from the Babylonians as a time of returning what belonged to others. I was intrigued by this and read up a little more on it. Here’s what I found from The Economist:
A 12-day festival to celebrate the renewal of life, known as Akitu, marked the beginning of the agrarian year. During Akitu people keen to curry favour with the gods would promise to repay their debts and to return borrowed objects. In a similar vein the ancient Egyptians would make sacrifices to Hapi, the god of the Nile, at the beginning of their year in July, a time when the Nile’s annual flood would usher in a particularly fertile period. In return for sacrifice and worship they might request good fortune, rich harvests and military successes.
That took quite the turn.
What I thought was a cute little start to the year or returning that book (or scroll) you borrowed, getting your finances in order and having a fresh clean start reminded me how incredible the concept of salvation is and the process of making us more like Christ.
Stay with me! I’m going somewhere good with this!
Tim Keller says that Christianity is the only religion where it’s not works first, then salvation. We don’t have to appease God by doing a bunch of good things so we can have grace. We don’t have to clean ourselves up to curry God’s favor. He just gave it freely to us because He loved us.
It’s because of salvation that we have freedom in Christ and we even have the ability to be transformed.
I don’t want this to get lost on me. As I set goals and hope and pray to look a little more like Jesus come New Year’s 2021, I get to rest in the knowledge that that transformation is not just flowing through the sweat and tears I put into it. Transformation is happening because GOD began a good work in us (Philippians 1:6). I didn’t do it. He did.
It can be really easy to get discouraged by a lack of progress in whatever goals we might set for ourselves on January 1 but can we celebrate the freedom that if we’ve invited Christ into our hearts and committed to walking with Him, there’s not a tiny god waiting for me to measure up to dole out the greatest gift?
We cannot underestimate this! When I truly embrace the reality of that, my striving ceases. The “have to’s” become “get to’s”. There’s joy in the journey and there’s compassion for the missteps. I don’t hide from the one I feel I’ve failed. I don’t feel the need to cram more in. I don’t feel anxious that what I have is not enough. I can run headlong into His arms and know that He needs nothing from me. He is fully God.
And what I get to do now is a response of love to God, not what I hope will earn me enough tickets to get into heaven.
So there’s your over-the-top spiritual take on resolutions that I hope brings the rest that Matthew 11 talks about.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
For more new year’s content, check out my 2020 Goal Series that starts with this blog post.