Making a New Year's Resolution is popular in our culture. A new year is a time for a fresh start, and a new resolve to change something for the better fits well. Of course, we all know that those resolutions can be hard to keep, and we slip back into the "old ways" oh so easily!
Before moving to Fort Wayne and teaching at Concordia, we lived in Ethiopia for a time. We were missionaries with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and my husband, Rev. Dr. Carl Rockrohr, was Dean of Mekane Yesus Seminary in Addis Ababa. Although I had given up making New Year's Resolutions years ago when I realized that I rarely kept them, or kept them as well as I had hoped, it was a natural topic of conversation as we sought to learn our host culture. I was amazed to learn that making New Year's Resolutions was not generally practiced among Ethiopians. In fact, our friends were a bit surprised by the question when we asked them about it!
Our Ethiopian friends told us that only our Heavenly Father knows our future, and our plans only come to fruition with God's blessing. For our Ethiopian friends the close of one year and the start of the next is a time to look back and reflect with thanksgiving on God's many blessings. We then look forward not with resolutions of what we want or hope to do but with joy in knowing what our Lord Jesus has already done for us, and prayers that God's merciful hand of care and guidance will continue throughout our days.
Yes, I have things I would like to do and things I would like to change or do differently. But these are not the burdens I carry. Each day is a fresh start for God's people as we daily remember our baptism. “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4 ESV)
Go ahead, work on those New Year’s Resolutions! It is God-pleasing to continue to strive toward better habits and a closer walk with Him. And when we don’t quite manage to “get there” – remember that each day is a fresh start, a blank page. With the prophet Isaiah and a host of God’s people who have gone before us we can say, “I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord, the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord has granted us” (Isaiah 73:7a ESV).
Thanks be to God!
Deaconess Dr. Deborah Rockrohr,