My life is littered with the unkept promises to myself that we call New Year’s resolutions. My journal records them year after year. I read them as a history of personal failure. And I agonize over the loss of what might have been if I had been – what? – more disciplined? More organized? More dedicated?
If I had just been “more,” I suppose.
And there’s the rub. More! We are what we are – human. Thus, capable and limited both.
On January 1, we tend to remember the capable part and forget the limited. And so we set ourselves up for the self-loathing that must follow failure.
Resolutions are supposed to be improvement goals but they become instead judgments about our lack of resolve, our weak willpower.
So here’s what you are “not” going to read in my resolution list this year:
- “I will get down to my college weight.” Somehow, I idealized that time, as if then I could have posed for Michelangelo’s “David.” I shave in a T-shirt now to spare the stare at the spare tire. This year: “I will pay more attention to health than vanity.”
- “I will spend an hour a day in prayer, Bible reading, and meditation.” Between running at 6:15 four mornings per week and running kids to school, it’s hard to squeeze it in and shower, too. And listen to Norm Hitzges sports talk, too. And eat. And read the paper. How about: “I will begin to trim back other habits to make some regularly priority time for God.” (Maybe next year this will be my first concern, being a preacher and all.)
I could go on, but that’s enough embarrassment for one article.
Somewhere I got sucked into a “lost-in-the-translation” black hole over Jesus’ command: “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).
“Be perfect” is sucker imperative, easily laid on an oldest child with a spiritual bent like me. It’s also disaster. Just think: “Be like God!” Sure thing; I’ll get on that right away.
The meaning of “perfect” in the Greek text has more to do with maturity than what we think of as perfection. The former is a warm and welcome notion, the latter cold and forbidding. Jesus’ intent had more to do with loving our enemies than being right about everything! Mature people accept inperfection with grace and forgiveness. Like God. Perfectionists never give up that illusion/delusion.
There are no perfectionists in heaven.