I’m bracing myself for the crowds this morning at my local YMCA.
I’d better get there early if I expect to get a bike for spin class. This time of year the sign up list is mandatory and usually fills well before class starts. If the bikes are all taken, I guess I’ll try the weight room, but it’ll probably be packed too.
I’m just like everybody else. The holidays are over and it’s time to get back to reality. I’ve packed up the ornaments and trashed the remains of the stale gingerbread house. However, I did finish the box of chocolates because I believe it’s wrong to waste the earth’s resources. You’re welcome.
My appetite for holiday excess satiated, now I’m hungry for change. Global change? Maybe, but personal change first. I’ll bet I’m not the only one who feels that way. Just as predictably as the Christmas decorations appear in October, so the gym discounts herald the new year. We’re hungry for change.
But why? Because we know we’re flawed people. We see the evidence. This time of year we step on the scales and the numbers speak. We can’t zip our jeans and our clothes speak. We open our credit card statement and the balance speaks. We yell at our kids, lie to our husbands, and look around at the stacks of unfinished projects. The evidence is everywhere.
But there’s more. Underneath the mess is the person who made the mess. I don’t like this person, this version of me that I’d rather disown. The material evidence points silently to the flaws that haunt us, stirring questions.
- I’m not assertive enough with my boss or my husband or my kids or my friends. Why do I let them walk all over me?
- My anger is out of control. How can the kids avoid pushing my button when it has a hair trigger?
- I never finish anything. How can I expect my roommate to clean up after herself when I leave a trail behind me?
Flashes of insight lead to moments of honesty. The need for change runs deep.
Just as predictably as the gym fills up on January 1, it begins to clear out around Valentine’s Day. By March 1 you can count on getting a spin bike even if you’re running a little late. And the weight room? A few new faces have hung in there; the majority have moved on.
But why? Limited willpower is first, I think. The desire to change that was acute enough to initiate action in January has ebbed. Change is hard work. Sustainable change depends on the sustained energy of a fixed desire. Once again I’ve overestimated the power of my will to produce both desire and action. There are a few who seem to have it, the concert pianists and Olympic athletes among us. But if sustainable willpower is only for the Olympian, that’s bad news for you and me.
Limited change is the second reason our failure is so predictable. Even if I stick with my New Year’s goals and lose the 5 or 25 or 55 pounds–which is quite an accomplishment–I bump up against a limit. My body has changed, but I still haven’t touched the source of my problem. Maybe I eat when I’m anxious. Food comforts me. This is a problem that won’t be solved by diet. External restraint can produce some results, but it’s not the deep change I want. Yo-yo dieting may soon reveal that the change was superficial.
Sorry to spoil your New Year’s initiative. But better to trash false hope sooner than later. Even better to have true hope.
The message of Christmas gives us hope for the New Year. It tells us there’s another Will greater than our own which has come to our rescue. This Will provides the answer to both the limits of our willpower and the limits of our self-produced change. It’s the source of
- Initiating power for deep change
- Sustainable power for effective change
- Eternal power for lasting change
This Will is a person–God himself, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is our hope for change. Join me for the next two weeks as we unpack that hope.