So many of us do it, year after year. We look forward to that "clean slate" given by consensus on January 1, and we make resolutions. Many of them go beyond the popular goals—they're quiet, inner commitments to being more kind, unselfish, patient, orderly, pure, spiritually-minded.
For most of us, the desire to turn over a new leaf and improve ourselves reflects a deep yearning to be the best we can be. It may also indicate a longing to erase past mistakes and bad habits, to release the buildup of mental debris and the burden that goes with it. But all too often, no matter how laudable our goals are, we soon find that we're back in the old rut.
I'm finding a new approach to the idea of resolution that's bringing permanent and far-reaching change to my life. It's what I call "premise resolution." I first began to consider this approach when I was thinking about a statement in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the major work on Christian Science, by Mary Baker Eddy. It says, "Divine Science, rising above physical theories, excludes matter, resolves things into thoughts, and replaces the objects of material sense with spiritual ideas." Science and Health, p. 123.
It occurred to me that the problem with my resolutions might be that they were rooted in "physical theories" in the fundamental premise that life is material. That we're born into matter, and then grow, mature, decline, and die in matter. According to this view, we're a product of heredity, environment, personal history, accident, chance, circumstance. If we feel imprinted by these factors, no wonder it seems we have very little leeway to change ourselves. From this basis even the best of human resolutions, backed up with the best of human discipline and support, achieves limited results.
But what if resolutions weren't just an attempt to do better within a framework of limitation, but an exchange of a finite premise for a spiritual, infinite one? Could this show us a whole different set of laws? Could they be ones that "unlimit" us instead of pulling us down? Could they support health instead of deterioration? Spirituality instead of materiality?
This idea thrilled me, and I began to see more clearly that Christ Jesus' healing works were based on a spiritual premise. He saw beyond the popular, fundamental assumptions of his day, and ours—beyond the conviction that identity is material and liable to sin, disease, and mortality. He based his thoughts and actions entirely on a spiritual foundation, on an understanding of true existence as the outcome of God, and therefore wholly good. The result wasn't just limited change within a limited framework, but complete and permanent healing.
Jesus' words to the Pharisee Nicodemus reveal his approach to spiritual resolution and change: "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. . . . That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again." John 3:3, 6, 7. We may feel this spiritual rebirth is more than we bargained for, is too much to ask, is too large a step when just a "tweaking" of our circumstances is all we really want. But when the heart is searching for something deeper than cosmetic changes and we've hit walls of frustration, we start to be open to a new approach.
That's what happened to me. I had grown up making not just yearly but daily resolutions, striving constantly to improve myself. While this brought a certain amount of progress, it also burdened me with impossibly high personal expectations and a lot of guilt for never being able to measure up to those standards. Finally I began a career that made such constant demands on me that I knew I'd have to either quit the job or find a new way to handle it. The old resolution mode wasn't going to cut it I needed more than a change of circumstances. I needed a change of premise.
So I turned to God in prayer. Being born of the Spirit, I was finding, requires an active willingness to look to God as the source of everything: our thoughts, agenda, behavior, strength — everything. It requires childlike surrender to God as the all-governing source of being. Science and Health says: "Willingness to become as a little child and to leave the old for the new, renders thought receptive of the advanced idea. Gladness to leave the false landmarks and joy to see them disappear,—this disposition helps to precipitate the ultimate harmony." Science and Health, pp. 323-324.
As demanding as premise resolution seems, it's always doable. For all that we're being asked to do is to turn with childlike trust to God and let Him give us our thoughts, which impel our actions. It's a matter of setting aside merely personal efforts for resolution, and admitting God's infinite capacities, letting them be expressed in us.
What if resolutions were more than just
another attempt to do better?
This shift from personal effort to God-sustained capacity hasn't come all in a moment for me. It has taken months and even years of patient resolving to let God be my foundation, my source. But each time I've yielded even a little, there have been significant benefits. I've seen physical pain disappear instantly, much-needed financial resources supplied in amazing and wonderful ways, and mental peace established over and over again when I've surrendered more fully to God as my source. And oh, that job that was so oppressive—well, I've been doing it for over a dozen years now, and it has grown more restful and joyful for me, even though my workload has doubled and even tripled. Such a profound shift has been going on in my way of thinking that I can now say it's more natural for my days to be peaceful than pressured.
As you take stock of those things you'd like to improve, don't give up on your natural desire to express goodness and excellence. Try shifting your goal away from just gaining a change of circumstances, and resolve to change your premise. Surrendering to God as your source can bring the kind of deep and permanent changes you're seeking. This takes steady practice. But it's practice at letting God care for you. The benefits of this work will bring permanent blessing this year and always.
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