The Dissolution of Resolution



The first month of this new year will soon be history, and so will some of our New Year resolutions.

Now, I do believe we can accomplish a lot with good old-fashioned grit and determination. We can resolve to exercise more discipline in our lives in order to:

  • Lose pounds
  • Add muscle
  • Save money
  • Read more widely
  • De-clutter our houses
  • Reprioritize our schedules
  • Commit to new activities
  • and much more

But when it comes to internal transformation—real heart change—this is what I have discovered

Resolve has its limitations.

I have to relearn that lesson whenever I find myself addressing my need for heart change with redoubled self-effort and renewed self-determination.

It happens like this. When I see that I need to become a better person, that I need to love people better, sometimes my inner Captain Resolve steps in and confidently says, Stand back, God, because I’ve got this!”

For a while, in my foolish zeal, I actually convince myself that I’m pulling it off, that I am really changing myself for the better. Then Mr. Hyde shows up and I’m shocked. “Who is that and where did he come from?”

It’s only when I realize that I am exhausted from my super-heroic self-effort that Captain Resolve dissolves into a puddle of sweat.

Then, very gently and quietly, the Spirit asks, “Are you finished?”

I answer, “Yes. That’s all I’ve got.”

The good news is, when I arrive at the end of my self-effort, I find that I’m in the best place I could possibly be.

Now I am ready to listen.

Now I am ready to receive.

Now I’m ready to rely.

Now I am ready to trust.

Now I remember that change occurs when I fix my attention on a Person, not when I fixate on personal change.

As we remain attentive to God’s voice, receptive to His will, and cooperative with His Spirit, we are transformed by God Himself into the people He is re-creating us to be

Resolved: to live in relational dependency upon God

When has Captain Resolve been your spiritual not-so-superhero?

6 thoughts on “The Dissolution of Resolution

  1. Ahhh, Dave. Unfortunately, I am very familiar with Captain Resolve’s appearance in my life. The blessing of being competent is I can do a lot of stuff on my own. In my own strength. The drawback of being competent: I can do a lot of stuff on my own. In my own strength. When I strive to become “better”, I’m not relying on God. Without fail, I end up with bruises on my forehead from banging my head against the wall of “Improvement.”

    As I grow older, I’m learning to stop trying to do it on my own, and I’m learning to trust God to work His changes in me. It’s hard to not “help” God out, but I’m working on being, not doing. 🙂

    Great post. As always. 🙂

    • I appreciate your comments and insights, Jeanne. I think you captured the up and the down side of competence. And yes, we become who we are in Christ by relying rather than striving. Even now I am reminded by your remarks to refrain from helping God and to instead gratefully receive from Him what I need by being in His company. Great reply, as always:-)

  2. Interesting question, and I had to think about this for a while.

    I may at one point have had the Captain Resolve doppelganger, but it’s been so long that I can’t really address his reality.

    Becoming a better person isn’t a leap that can be made through resolution; rather, it’s a process which through slow degrees moves the inertia of personality to a higher place.

    Resolution doesn’t work, because one can’t resolve the goal. One can only resolve the next “better” act. And the one after that, and after that.

    Turning it over to the Holy Ghost? I’ve never thought in this way, but I suppose it’s valid. I do believe that God expects that we do our duty to the limit of ability and heart,

    He wants us to share Eternity with Him, after all, and if we can’t make the right decisions here, what use will we be to Him in Heaven?

    • You get bonus points for using “doppelganger” in your reply.
      I agree that transformation is a process by degrees.
      And, yes, duty is certainly a big part of the equation. Life is mission. There is much God calls us to do. Jesus tells His disciples there is kind of doing that cannot be accomplished “apart from Me”–apart from remaining, abiding, relying, asking and receiving. Duty through dependence upon the Holy Ghost, you might say.
      Easier said than done, in my experience.
      As always, thank you for your always thoughtful reply.

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