Why New Year’s resolutions don’t work (and what does)

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It’s years since I made a New Year’s resolution. I became discouraged with having them fade to a shadow of what I’d envisioned after a mere few weeks.

It hasn’t always made sense to me. I have daily rhythms and weekly disciplines which I live fairly consistently. Why do I struggle to sustain a New Year’s resolution?

But lately as I’ve been asking God if there’s something He wants to bring to my attention as we begin 2015, I’ve been brought back again and again to the words of Simone Weil:

“The effective part of [our] will. . . is not effort, which is directed toward the future. It is consent; it is the ‘yes’ of marriage. A ‘yes’ pronounced within the present moment and for the present moment, but spoken as an eternal word, for it is consent to the union of Christ with the eternal part of our soul.”

All is grace; we simply receive. Yet consent does not eliminate work or negate intentionality; it transforms them. Consent is the “yes” of Mary to the Holy Spirit overshadowing her, a “yes” which opened her to something no amount of her own effort could birth—and led her into the lifelong labor of loving her child and letting him go.

It is the “yes” of abiding in the vine—and bearing much fruit; the “yes” of taking Jesus’ yoke—an instrument of (shared) work—and finding rest; the “yes” of bringing a few crumbly loaves to Him and watching Him bless them and break them—and hand them back to us to distribute to those waiting. It does not pretend away our smallness and fragility: “All people are like grass and all their glory is like the flowers of the field” (Is. 40:6-8). Nor does it limit the power and love of the Light which, with our consent, enters us, transforming our tiny offering with God’s own mighty one.

“To this end I labor, struggling with all His energy which so powerfully works in me.” (Col 1:29)

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