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I remember as a kid making New Year’s resolutions.
I’m going to learn to play the guitar better.
I’m going to read my Bible every day.
I’m going to be nicer to my brother (sorry, Jason…that one didn’t always work out).
Like most kids and adults I know, I was lousy at staying on top of those “resolutions” each year. And the few that I’ve occasionally made in my adult years haven’t fared much better.
Promises we make to ourselves like these are often eventually broken, eventually forgotten. In fact, one researcher named Richard Wiseman found that usually about 8 out of every 10 people who make these New Year resolutions eventually break them.
Time magazine once published a list of the most commonly broken resolutions, which included:
• Lose Weight and Get Fit• Eat Healthier and Diet• Get Out of Debt and Save Money• Spend More Time with Family• Be Less Stressed• Volunteer
Sounds like a good list of promises! Why do so many break them? Wiseman found the most common reasons for failure were that people think too much about what failure will look like, and they try to do it out of their own self-control.
Well, that explains it. I’ve usually had good intentions, usually started worrying about the times I messed up, and then usually kept trying to hold on in my own strength.
So this year, I’m not making any resolutions.
At least, that was my plan until a couple of news headlines hit me between the eyes over the Christmas break.
The first headline that I noticed was that a study of children’s Christmas wish lists in British families had “A Dad” listed by children as the tenth most requested gift.
A Dad. The tenth most requested gift for Christmas.
Then I saw a headline that trumpeted how fathers are disappearing from households in America. It even has an interactive map to show what parts of the country have higher levels of fatherlessness.
One of the moms interviewed in that article, after declaring how much need there is for fatherhood initiatives from government and non-profit-funded programs, reconsidered her words and declared, “You can talk till you’re blue in the face about how to do it, but ultimately, you just have to do it.”
Those stories break my heart, and make me a bit angry, too. I know too many families who have been ripped apart, even this last year, by dads who selfishly gave up on their marriages, on their kids, and started over. Some of them are still connected to their kids, but not in the same way that they could have been.
I know it’s not always a dad’s fault. I’ve also known too many families where the mom has been the one who selfishly gave up on the marriage and the kids, and decided to start all ove r… at great cost to everyone.
What promises had they made? What resolutions had they uttered on January 1 of previous years?
Which brings me back to my thoughts about the New Year. To tweak a phrase from Aragorn in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, “2013 is upon you whether you would have it or not.”
Really, when it comes to resolutions, we can talk until we’re blue in the face about doing something, but ultimately we just have to do it.
Thankfully, as a follower of Jesus Christ, I don’t “just have to do it” alone. Whatever God wants me to do, God can give me the strength in Christ to do it.
I’ve never failed doing something when I was truly relying on Christ. I’ve consistently failed when I relied on myself.
After thinking about the families I’ve watched suffer painfully through breakups in 2012, those kids in the UK who wanted a Dad for Christmas, and the countless kids in America who are wishing for the same, I want to make a resolution.
Actually, it’s more of a New Year’s Request, to God …
God, could you please give me the strength I need to be the husband and the dad my family needs me to be? Would you please give me the wisdom, the patience and the resolve to stay true to them this year no matter what may come? And would you give me the wisdom and the courage to help families who are struggling to stay together to actually stay together? God, would you help me, in big and small ways, to reduce the number of Christmas wish lists with “Dad” on them … starting with my own?
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