In the New Year, I am cutting back to one cup per day.
New Year's resolutions have a way of falling by the wayside.
Why is that? Perhaps because New Year's resolutions tend to be a collection of good intentions with an underlying commitment to the status quo. Part of me wants to change, but most of me doesn't.
Or maybe we want the change out there as this cartoon aptly illustrates.
So how do you make a New Year's resolution that sticks? Donald Miller in his book Storyline frames it this way. True change comes from a crisis. The crisis is sometimes something that happens to you, but it doesn't have to be. You can choose to have a "crisis" that will result in change, for example, write a resignation letter, submit a deposit on your college enrollment, buy nonrefundable tickets to a marriage retreat in Cancun, or ask someone to mentor you. The idea is that personal change doesn't happen unless something in your environment is significantly different.
In the Bible there are two similar characters with a desire for change. One is known by every Sunday School kid and the other is completely obscure. The first, Zacchaeus, is the famously short man who climbed a tree to get a look at Jesus. Jesus noticed him, went home with him, and consequently, Zacchaeus gave his fortune away to the poor. The second one is not even named, but he probably would have been featured in a Time magazine article about 30 individuals under 30 who will make a difference. Anyway, he comes to Jesus for some self-help tips, "What do I do to gain eternal life?" Jesus says, "Obey the commandments." In other words, "What is the conventional wisdom? Do what you are suppose to do?" The young man replies, "All of these I have been doing all my life." His self-confident claim is absurd, so Jesus pauses a second. The text says, "Jesus looked at him and loved him" (Mark 10:21). Its as if Jesus was saying, "You poor, tired, hard working, self-made young man. You are doing so much, but you are still in the driver's seat. You need a crisis. Jesus breaks the dramatic silence and puts it out there plainly. He speaks in the man's language of self-improvement, “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Needless to say the young man walks away sadly.
I wonder if we are like that young man. We don't need one more thing to make ourselves feel a bit better about ourselves. We need a whole new story that involves some risk. We need a crisis that frees us from our self-improvement program. We need to go where we are not in control.
For this New Year's season, don't jump off a cliff, but if you want a New Year's resolution that sticks, try adding a bit -- or a lot -- of risk, the kind that creates a bit of a personal crisis of trust. That's what change is made of.