We’re ten days into 2012. That’s plenty of time for plenty of New Year’s resolutions to have been made and to have already been broken. I find this sad because resolutions actually do have power to yield dramatic fruit in our lives, if we’re willing to stick to them for the long-haul.
Yesterday I read a post by John Stahl-Wert called “Resolved.” which describes the lifelong resolutions made by three great figures from American history. These resolutions were not weak, shallow, or trite. They were resolutions which required deep development of character, resolutions to seek justice, live obediently, and fulfill one’s duties. As Stahl-Wert points out, these men “believed that their impact in the world would spring from their character; that their character would spring from their investments in character, and that character investment is a life-long pursuit.”
Another man whose investment in his character left a lasting impression upon the world is Charles de Foucauld. Since I first read his writings last August, I’ve found his passion for prayer, his imitation of Christ, and his heart for evangelism inspiring. Now I’m reading his Spiritual Autobiography, and (with providential timing) this week I came across the set of bold, life-defining resolutions he made while living in Nazareth and seeking to imitate the life of Christ:
I resolve: To ask for martyrdom, long for it, and if it please God, suffer it in order to love Jesus with a greater love; To have zeal for souls, a burning love for the salvation of souls – which have all been ransomed at so unique a price; To despise no one, but to desire the greatest good for everyone because everyone is covered by the blood of Jesus; . . . To be perfect, to be holy myself, for Jesus held me so dear that he gave his love for me; . . . To have an infinite horror of sin and the imperfection that leads to it, because it has already cost Jesus so dear; . . . To have absolute trust in the love of God, an inextinguishable faith in his love, because he has proved it to me by being wiling to suffer such pains for me; To be humble at the thought of all he has done for me, and the little I have done for him; To long for sufferings to give him love for love, and imitate him, and not be crowned with roses whereas he was crowned with thorns . . . (The Spiritual Autobiography of Charles de Foucauld, Jean-Francois Six, ed. [Ijamsville, Md: Word Among Us Press 2003] pp. 93-94)
Strengthened by Christ to fulfill his calling, Foucauld lived into all of resolutions he made. He left Nazareth to live a simple and prayerful live the Sahara desert, bearing witness to Christ by his example and holiness among the nomadic Tuareg people group. Having asked for martyrdom, he received it, being murdered there in 1916.
The power of Foucauld’s resolutions lies in the fact that they were all ways of “taking up his cross”. Foucauld resolved to seek holiness, to take up his cross and follow the Jesus who said “he who does not take up his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:38). That resolution, and the cruciform life Foucauld thus led, left an impact on the world. Today there are thousands of people following Foucauld’s example officially in religious and lay communities around the globe. I imagine thousands more are unofficial followers of him, individuals like myself who have simply been inspired by him to seek a deeper life with Christ.
When Jesus becomes Lord of our lives, he doesn’t wait for an arbitrary starting date like January 1st to ask us to resolve to seek his Kingdom. He asks today: Are we willing to resolve to seek his Kingdom, his holiness, even his cross?