I’ve never been good at New Year’s resolutions. It’s not from lack of trying, and it’s not that I don’t make any – I have certainly made a few.
But I usually make them too late, sometimes the day of. They’ll last a few days, weeks, or on good years, a few months. New diet. More stringent exercise. The usual.
I do plan to eat better and exercise more frequently, but those aren’t my real resolutions. This year I pray to focus on something else.
Resolved: to be more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and to have more self-control.
For those familiar with Paul’s letter to the Galatians, those attributes should sound familiar. These words are what are commonly known as the “Fruits of the Spirit.” Being kind, loving, patient, or peaceful has been a bit more difficult of late. Not just 2020, but for many years previous, it seems these fruits have nary been seen out in public. Politics, pop culture, and even in my own self I’ve seen a startling lack of these on display.
The problems I have faced have often been the self-inflicted ones. Arguments with my wife that stemmed from my own ungratefulness or lack of self-control; quarrels with friends and family often came from my unkind behavior, pride, or impatience.
This is not an abstract resolution. I have faces and names in mind when I think of how to be more in step with the fruits of the Spirit.
I need to love my wife better, to be more faithful to my local church, to exercise better self-control in eating and drinking, and with my words, and to be more joyful in general, because I never know how much a joyful demeanor or a few kind words will affect those around me.
These thoughts have stemmed from thoughts of my own mortality and what it will mean to leave a legacy. As I wrote last week, this is a theme I would like to consider more frequently this year. Lord-willing, I’d like to focus on a few people in my life who have left legacies after death. Grandad, Grandma, Papa, Aunt Leenie, Leland, and other friends and loved ones whose actions in life continue to reverberate in mine, teaching me still how to walk in the way.
I have seen the fruits of the Spirit at work in the people who bore those names. Their words and lives serve as testimony to the efficacy of a life lived well for the Lord.
One of the deacons at a nearby church counts grandma’s actions to take the time to teach him when he was considered a “problem child” at school as a reason he remained in school. Patient and peaceful with him, grandma didn’t give up on him. Without her displaying the fruits of the Spirit to him, who knows where he would be?
Or Grandad. Recently, a friend of dad’s told him a story about grandad he had never heard before. He used to coach high school football in Harlingen, Texas. One night, during an away game, he stopped the bus outside a restaurant for the team to eat. The tired kids stepped off the bus one by one, making their way into the establishment.
The manager of the restaurant told grandad he would serve them all food except for one. Dad’s friend, only African American player on the team at that time, would have to wait outside on the bus while the others ate. He wasn’t welcome inside.
Grandad turned to his hungry team, told them all to get back on the bus, then politely told the owner he would seek another establishment where everyone on his team would be able to eat. Dad’s friend said that he already had great respect for granddad. It only went up from there.
Because of grandad’s love for all the kids on his football team and faithfulness to stand up for him in public, dad’s friend said it gave him encouragement; a brighter future was ahead.
Those are my resolutions this year. Kindness is remembered long after statues crumble and trophies fade. My body will either and age, no matter how much I walk or how well I eat. Stories that exemplify who a person was will be passed on as heirlooms to the next generation.
By many or few, our words and deeds will be remembered by those around us. Fidelity to the truth, faithful to the gospel, steadfast in love, I pray even a few of those fruits of the Spirit will be among the attributes friends and family use to describe me.
Joseph Hamrick is a semi-professional writer and sometimes thinker. He lives in Commerce and serves as a deacon at Commerce Community Church (C3).
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org