I really don’t like New Year’s Resolutions! (How’s that for an opening line for 2022, huh?!?…) Ok, not so much the concept of the resolutions themselves – wanting to change and improve yourself and set new goals is a good, worthwhile deed. I just hate the fact that I am so bad at keeping them!
I, like most frail, flawed, humans, have desires for improvement and for the first few days, I am pretty good at doing exactly what I set out to do. Then, something else kicks in and after all these years I’m still not sure what it is. Laziness? Human Nature? (see Mosiah 3:19) Complacency? Comfort Zones?
Do you know how many books I have with bookmarks half way through? How many times I have lost the same 20 lbs.? Goals left unachieved? Journals began? Unsent family Christmas cards? Potential life-altering inventions? Great book ideas? NEW SOCK DESIGNS??? Really good intentions and ideas that never make it past the mental “drawing board”. I am not a “self-loathing” type of person, but man, I do NOT like this part of me! It is so dang frustrating…
What I just wrote about reminds me of one of our favorite family vacation spots. It is at a little place just up the mountains from Huntsville, UT called Powder Ridge Village right near the Powder Mountain Ski Resort. We usually go there during the summer months since it is in pretty high demand during the winter. As long as there is a pool and a room with a TV, our kids are usually pretty content. This place has both and it is generally a fun, somewhat relaxing week away from our home during the summer. The views are beautiful, especially when there is still a little bit of snow left over from the winter months. My family and I have even had a few snowball fights in June!
I have noticed something intriguing about Powder Ridge Village the past few years – just to the north of the condos, there are a bunch of unfinished condo units that were planned on being built as part of the village about 15 years ago. Lots of cement foundations, lots of rebar bent out of shape, and plenty of large dirt piles – all of which are roped off from the adjacent condos and guests.
I did a little asking around and found out that these unfinished units were to be another phase of the Powder Ridge Village development – newer, nicer, and exciting for new guests. However, these were never finished due to a lack of funding and investors and have therefore sat there unfinished for several years. Basically, they had a great idea but they didn’t realize how much it was going to cost them and how many investors they really needed to build it. So, there they stand – unfinished, unadorned, with all kinds of unrealized potential… Hmmm! As I like to say to my seminary students…”If only there were a gospel principle here???”
In the New Testament in the book of Luke, there were great crowds following Jesus. Everyone loved the miracles, healings, and free food. But Jesus knew their hearts. He knew they desired the benefits of what He did rather than an understanding of who He was. They loved His gifts, but not the life He was calling them to. In these verses, He explained what it takes to be one of His followers: I like to refer to them as “The Parable of the Unbuilt Tower”. It reads…
And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. (Luke 14:27-30)
Um, ME! ME! Holy Cow! The Savior just described me! Although my “unfinished towers” usually aren’t readily seen by others to mock and spray graffiti on, to me these things stick out like a sore thumb in my life and they seem to taunt me all the time. They are eyesores that scream out, “You didn’t count the cost first, moron!” These pillars of hypocrisy, discouragement, and frustration can be major stumbling blocks to our self-worth. These buildings will eventually be headed for “condemnation” if nothing is done to them.
Back in the October 2015 Ensign Magazine, the First Presidency Message by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf is called “Finish with Your Torch Still Lit”. To me, his words rang very true…
“How many times have we started something and not finished? Diets? Exercise programs? Commitments to read the scriptures daily? Decisions to be better disciples of Jesus Christ? How often do we make resolutions in January and pursue them with red-hot determination for a few days, a few weeks, or even a few months only to find that by October, the flame of our commitment is little more than cold ash?…We have good intentions; we start strong; we want to be our best self. But in the end we leave our resolutions shredded, discarded, and forgotten. It’s human nature to stumble, fail, and sometimes want to drop out of the race. But as disciples of Jesus Christ, we have committed not only to begin the race but also to finish it—and finish it with our torch still burning brightly. The Savior promised His disciples, “He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13).
I love how President Uchtdorf’s message was in October and not January. The reality of resolutions is that you can start any day of the year to build your tower. We don’t always need a new year to do it. But, the key element in finishing the project is to “Count the Cost”. Often, my goal setting is the equivalent of running a marathon without at least jogging around the block a few times. We start off strong, but by the second or third mile – nothing is left in the tank and we just drop out of the race while others who planned better and counted the cost in their own races just sail right past us. As I have observed good runners, they plan – from the type of shoe they wear to the type of music they will listen to and at what points of the race they will listen to it. All of this takes proper planning…which is not one of my strong points, but I’m grateful that with some faith and humility in the great Redeemer of my many unfinished towers – it can become one of my strengths. (see Ether 12:27) What will this goal cost me in terms of time, sacrifice, work, effort…?
To those of us who have goals for the new year (or for whenever you want), I hope that we will do better at “counting the cost” first and that we can lessen the likelihood of the unfinished towers in our lives.