2016 is almost a week old now. When it was still an infant year of a mere seven hours I might have resolved something about knowing better than to stay up past midnight, having children who wake like alarm clocks each morning before the sunrise. A few hours later, in the presence of our two—now slightly irritable—children, my resolution could have concerned not letting the kids stay up late on holidays in the future. But despite a five hour drive home from Nova Scotia that afternoon, in the end New Year’s Day was pretty much what it ought to be: a quiet, relaxed, low-stress post-holiday respite.
Of course, I jotted down a few resolutions for the year, if you can call them that. Goals, really: and quite insignificant ones at that, as manageable as possible. Lofty New Year’s resolutions generally tend to be a little bit like dreams: perfectly conceivable in the moment, but afterwards mildly baffling to recount.
Still, the impulse is understandable. Most of us have a sense of a fresh start each time the calendar rolls around. Maybe it has something to do with the already-lengthening days. We want to make something of ourselves. But what to make?
In the midst of my list-making and goal-setting, I came across a passage in Matthew’s gospel that is all about what to make of us. “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit” (Matthew 12:33).
For all our own resolutions about changing our behaviour, it’s what’s inside us—our very character and being—that makes the difference. And this passage is a good pointer to the truth that God alone is the one who makes something of us. We don’t do it ourselves.
Nevertheless, I wonder if given the gift of new life in Christ (the making of a tree good) we might resolve to feed and water the tree with things that would nourish it. Things like Scripture and prayer and worship naturally come to mind. In addition to these how about a better use of our time, a bit more of it focused on slowing down and not being rushed here and there—time spent rather than lost? A bit of silence, and a fair amount of luxuriating in the company of our families (whether biological or spiritual) and friends, those precious gifts God gives us along with the supreme gift, which is Christ himself.
Has the tree been made good by God? Feed the good tree.