By Bo Bowen

I only ask because study after national study show it’s around this time in February that most people who made a New Year’s resolution – approximately 80-percent - give up on it. Most of us who resolve to change, add a discipline, or quit a vice make it about six weeks before getting stuck in the winter mud and ineffectually spinning our tires.

The worst part, of course, isn’t the failing. It’s the guilty feelings that often come when we fall short of our goal. Six weeks? Is that all I’m good for? Is that all the willpower I’ve got inside me?

Once we learn the statistics on the low success rates for New Year’s resolutions, many of us cease making them. After all, why set oneself up for failure? And yet, resolving to make a change, to improve ourselves in some tangible way, remains a time-honored tradition in our culture. There’s something about a brand-new year that calls out to us. For a fleeting moment, at least, we imagine possibility. We envision transformation.

But then comes February. The vividness of those New Year’s dreams fade. The novelty wears off. We’re left alone in the cold with nothing but our own white-knuckled tenacity, and rarely is that enough to make a difference.

So, if that’s you, I want to remind you of something very easily forgotten in the midst of all our striving to better ourselves and become someone more appealing, or impressive, or self-controlled. I want you to know there is absolutely nothing you can do to make God like you more than he already does, just as there is nothing you can do to shrink his affection for you.

Boil down everything about Christianity, about the Church, about Sunday services and Bible studies and outreach projects, and this is what you find at the core of it all – God’s unconditional, unflinching love for you. Oh, sure, not everyone who professes belief in God always embodies this kind of love. You may know some folks who have instead personified a Christianity of judgment and contempt, or of self-righteous human effort. Sadly, they’re misguided. But that, of course, is the whole point. No one is perfect. Like a pole-vaulter setting the bar a bit too high, eventually we all fail to live up to the high goals we place over ourselves.

But the love of God lives on, unwavering. As the writer Brennan Manning put it, “God loves you unconditionally, as you are and not as you should be, because nobody is as they should be.”

So, keep on waking up with that early alarm to exercise. For as long as you can, keep adhering to that new diet, averting your eyes from the cigarette display, or practicing that brand-new hobby. For those who resolved to read through the entire Bible in one year, don’t lose your mettle no matter how boring you find Leviticus to be.

Whatever you’ve determined to do, take my advice. Don’t judge your self-worth by whether or not you’re successful. That way lies only ill thoughts and shame. Instead, remember the God who loves you as you are. Sure, he wants you to better yourself, to take some personal responsibility, but that doesn’t change the fact that even now he is over the moon for you. And he always will be.

Bo Bowen is the senior pastor at The Church on the Hill in West Jackson. He writes at bobowenblog.com.

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