The resolution list

A new year… a fresh start…

Maybe finally, becoming the person you’ve always wanted to be. Getting rid of the past.  Doing the things you’ve always wanted to do. Acting the way you’ve always wanted to act. Looking the way you’ve always wanted to look.

We all do it, whether consciously or unconsciously. We make our lists of resolutions at the turn of the year to reach our ultimate goals and declare with vigor – “This is the year I will finally get it right!” And somewhere around February, we’ve returned to our old, bad habits.

Magnolia trees adorn my parents’ home in Dublin, Georgia. My sister Renie and I spent many hours climbing the trunks and hiding amongst the enormous leaves. I returned home recently. My daddy passed away in April. I spent time just wandering around the place I grew up. One particular tree, which we could reach the top of in less than minutes, now stands regally, thick in the trunk, with branches that spread beyond my imagination, standing higher than the house itself.

Smiling, I noticed an unnatural twist on one side and remembered swinging from the young, limber branches in an arched-like fashion, landing feet first (most of the time) on the other side of the yard. Renie and I enjoyed hours of summer fun supplied by the young tree; now, some 50 years later, it dominates the yard.

This morning in my prayers, I thought of the damaged trunk that my sister and I caused to the Magnolia tree. It reminded me of myself and the endless conversations I have had with God. So much has happened in my life. I’ve prayed for God to take away the pains of my past, things I do not want to have happened in my life. Heal the broken pieces of my heart. Even in my prayers, I ask God to somehow magically change the past. Remove what happened and make it straight again.  The tree came to mind. The unnatural twist in its trunk makes it uniquely beautiful – even more majestic than the other Magnolias as it stands sturdy, strong, and resistant despite the bend.

His strength is made perfect in our weaknesses. Sometimes healing comes not by removing what has occurred but by taking the damage and turning it into something rare and special. In Ecclesiastes 7:12, “Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked?” I purposely did not capitalize the h in “he” because there are incidences in our lives that are caused by God for a very specific reason and others caused by Satan to defeat us. Either way, God is orchestrating the events of life, the good, the bad, the very things that we feel will destroy us, for a purpose far greater than we can imagine. When evil hurls a damaging blow, God uses it to make us majestically beautiful.

I’ve also come to realize that many times we view ourselves as broken and unfixable. The very pieces we view as tattered and torn could be exactly what God needed to help us become what He wants us to become – not broken but becoming something really beautiful.

As you make your resolution list for 2024 –  remember a few simple tips:

1. Your ending is far more important than your beginning. Sometimes we spend too much effort looking at our past and trying to change it. Rearview mirrors are for glances. What’s ahead of you is far more important to God than what’s behind you. Plan accordingly.

2. Use your bends and twists. You are a survivor and what has happened in your life can be used as a source of strength. When obstacles come your way, when bad things happen, realize where you’ve been and who brought you through it.

3. You do have a choice. Each of us chooses every day whether to live in anger and despair over all the unfairness of life or to choose joy. The blessings in your life are just as significant as the difficulties. Give them each the proper weight.

4. Make Faith your first decision. Sometimes having faith is the last result. Make it your first. Believe first that God will handle the situation for your benefit instead of waiting until you have no other route to decide God can help.

5. Decide this is the year you BECOME what God has intended you to be.

Those who truly understand the value of knowing God will exchange all that they have to follow Him. Make 2024 your year.

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