As I write, today is the twentieth of January. We’re three weeks into 2015, which means that – if you’re like me – the resolutions and commitments that had you feeling cautiously optimistic about the New Year are starting to lose their luster a little bit. I haven’t been an abysmal failure (yet) when it comes to keeping my New Year’s resolutions, but I haven’t been a smashing success either. I’m okay with that, for what its worth. I set goals that would stretch and challenge me in a few key areas of my life this year, and it won’t surprise me or disappoint me if I come up short. I know that I’ll grow in the process, and that seems to make the whole resolution thing worthwhile.
I don’t know many people who really get too worked up by New Year’s resolutions. Many of us do feel a renewed sense of purpose and a surge of momentum after the Christmas holiday and before January 1 rolls around, and we make some commitments in hopes of channeling that momentum into growth and change. But its also true that many of us do so with a sense of expectation that our resolutions won’t really pan out the way we hope. We know ourselves too well, and we’ve fallen short too many times before, so we don’t really expect dramatic progress or results. The New Year offers hope that things can be different and better, but our human weakness (sinfulness) has desensitized us and conditioned us to failure.
At the end of the day, the whole cycle is quite theological – even if we don’t realize it. (Even if we don’t like theology!) Our longing for something new is planted in us by God himself, and our celebration of the New Year – and all the commitments and resolutions that come along with it – is a reflection of the way He made us. We were created in God’s image to glorify him by enjoying him forever, but despite all of our best intentions, commitments, and resolutions, we won’t truly do that or experience that on this side of eternity. However, through faith in the gospel, we are made new. We are (already) a new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17), however that newness is not yet fully realized. Nor will it be until the dawning of the new heavens and the new earth, when God will dwell among us in all of his glory, and we will fully glorify him by fully enjoying him forever (see Rev 21:1-5).
This already/not-yet pattern of the new work God is doing in us and in creation leaves us longing for newness, and frustrated in our efforts to find that newness in this life. As strange as it sounds, the pattern of resolution and failure that we go through every New Year helps point us to that bigger picture of what God is doing. We yearn for newness, because newness is the only way we’ll be whole and right with God. But until he returns, any newness we experience is merely a shadow of the true and better newness to come.
So take heart. If you’re frustrated by the New Year already, that’s a frustration that we should expect. All the New Year’s resolutions in history won’t satisfy our longings the way God dwelling with us in eternity will. But those resolutions, fulfilled, unfulfilled, or anywhere in between, do remind us of what – and who – we long for.
Come, Lord Jesus. Dwell with us. Make us fully new!