Same Old New Year’s Resolutions?
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford

Every New Year’s Eve my father encouraged us children to make new year’s resolutions. And every year, for several years in my childhood, I remember that my first resolution was always “I will not talk to strangers.”

Looking back, I used to wonder why in the world I kept making such an odd resolution. Then, recently, I remembered. The year, 1932. Spring. Fort Worth, Texas. The exhibition hall at the Fat Stock Show. Me, not quite five years old.

My father rented a booth in the exhibition hall of the Fat Stock Show to give out free literature about the Gospel, and hopefully, to give Mother and him an opportunity to talk to people, one on one, about their relationship with Jesus. The hall was a kaleidoscope of fascinating booths with all kinds of intriguing things for sale. My two older sisters and I were given the freedom (I think!) to wander through the place while Mother and Daddy ministered to many people.

It was dusk when I happened to see outside the entrance a man selling popcorn. I went out to investigate, and had an interesting conversation with the popcorn man ‒‒
‒‒until my teenaged Uncle Bill loomed up in the dark. “Jimmy,” (my Texas name) “your daddy’s been looking all over the place for you. Come quickly!” I couldn’t understand my father’s intense reaction to my casual conversation with a popcorn man. I didn’t know then what dangers could threaten a little child in a wicked world. But I did understand, after his discipline, that I would never, ever again talk to a stranger out in the night away from the protection of my mother and father!
I didn’t know the why; I just knew the what. So year after year I made the same resolution.

It may be you find yourself, like me, making the same old New Year’s resolutions, sometimes with shame, some times with exasperation. Not knowing the why, we try to deal with the what. And it isn’t enough to fix the problem.

Are we are putting a bandaid on the symptom rather than digging down into the real, true, problem, and solving that? Is our impatience with a fellow employee because she deserves it, or do we feel a deep-down anger that we’ve not received the promotion we’d earned? Do I not lose weight but blame it on my spouse, rather than facing honestly that I don’t want to bear the hardship of denying my appetite? Am I unkind to my child because he really did wrong, or because he shatters my self-image of being a perfect parent?

Not until God helps us to face ourselves on the deep-down, intimate heart level with absolute honesty will we be able to change our surface behavior. It’s so hard to admit the real need. But resolutions won’t help until we resolve to change the basic cause.

Israel’s King David prayed,

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends You,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
 Psalm 139:23.24

And, by the way, in the many years since, I have never again strayed alone into the dark to talk to a strange man selling popcorn!