While I’m not a strict adherent of New Year’s Resolutions per se, I am an avid year-round goal-setter. Thus, when a close friend recently asked me if I had any resolutions, I replied, “I have updated discipline goals.” In other words, I’m not endeavoring to change any behaviors overnight merely due to the turning of the calendar, but I do use occasions such as New Year’s, my May birthday, and Labor Day (the start of a new school year) to set and revise ongoing and long-term goals.
I referred to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit in last month’s column, and I’ll now refer to his grander epic The Lord of the Rings for an excellent quote that reflects the purpose behind all resolutions and goal-setting. When Galadriel (an immortal Queen among the Elves) bids farewell to the mortal Aragorn as he begins his 120-year reign as King, she says, “Through darkness you have come to your hope, and have now all your desire. Use well the days!” I interpret these words of Prof. Tolkien to mean that we need to be cognizant daily of how we’re stewarding the time and opportunities given to us during our short time on Earth.
The Apostle Paul delivers an even deeper and more comprehensive admonishment in Ephesians 5:15-17 (ESV): “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” The phrase “making the best use of the time” is better translated “redeeming the time,” meaning we’re to impart good in exchange for the evil we find in any situation or relationship. Easier said than done, yes; but I can think of few higher goals than redeeming the time, literally conquering evil with the good done through us.
On the heels of the cinematic release of Les Miserables on Christmas Day last month, I can’t help but hold up Victor Hugo’s character of Jean Valjean as an amazing redeemer of evil times. He exchanged bitterness for joy, hatred for love, thievery for generosity, and self-sufficiency for caring for others. I’m praying that I will be more like Jean Valjean (that is, like Christ, my Redeemer) in 2013 and beyond.
None of us are guaranteed another breath, let alone another week or month or year of normalcy. We don’t know what the future holds. But as we kick off 2013 with all its promise and worries, may we use well the days and redeem the time in ways large and small. May we be found faithful in little things so that we will be entrusted with big things, according to the will and grace of God—who transcends evil times.