New Years Resolutions are funny little things. They can fill the empty conversation space at a party on December 31, be the answer to various questions at dinner and are sometimes overly stereotypical. Lose weight. Go to church. Get up early. Read more books. [Fill in the blank with the one that you failed to complete HERE.] We’ve all been there. We’ve all promised to ourselves that we’ll change, it’ll get better and something drastic will happen.
Then we wake up on January 2, and life goes back to the way that it use to be. Or, if you’re like me, it takes until January 3 because January 1 is a holiday so you justify not starting or stopping any given habit for one more day because…well, it’s a holiday.
I sometimes wonder from where these pesky little things came. Upon Googling the tradition, it, to no surprise, came back with various results that may or may not be true, but there was one theme throughout what I discovered: People have been making a fresh start for as long as history has been recorded…and yet, we still can’t seem to get it right.
I’ve been teaching a series about living in the means of God’s grace. The premise is a less-than-typical wording on our familiar friends named spiritual disciplines. Instead of struggling, on our own, to do what Christians are supposed to do because those are the things that we’re suppose to do, we wonder together and discover opportunities to live into the grace that God has already created for us. The grace we find in prayer and serving others, worshipping as a community of believers and examining our own motives, to name a few. And, in turn, when we take advantage of said opportunities, how life change, spiritual growth and a growing relationship the Living God seem to happen naturally.
Bob Goff, a Christian author and lawyer, writes in his book Love Does about how most of us know a lot abut Jesus. We study what he said. Memorize what he did. And follow him around in a way that mimics his actions. But we, as Christians, sometimes fail to enter a relationship with Jesus and do stuff together. He compares it to the difference between stalking and dating. The comparison, in his words, is silly but has a point. One who stalks follows, learns and studies a person. Of course, that’s creepy and considered strange. But one who is in a relationship spends time with, talks to and enters life together with a person. Through that process, more is learned about the other. It is anything but creepy and instead develops into love and trust that is wonderful.
It made me begin to wonder where in my own life to I merely stalk Jesus? What things about Him do I logically and academically understand but fail to actually do with him? Where am I Bible studying without the Bible doing, to use another of Goff’s phrases? When we look at the Gospels, it’s obvious that Jesus doesn’t tell his disciples, see all this cool stuff that I’m doing, see how I talk to the Father, see how I live out love? Memorize this. Repeat it to others. Learn all about it. No, that would seem shallow and not worth of our attention. Instead, He encourages them to take note and share the stories…but then to create more stories like His stories. He invites them to not only to follow Him but also to live the way He lives, engaging in life together, not merely talking about Him.
It’s a slight but meaningful difference. When we study and examine, memorize and learn, that’s important. We can’t have a relationship with a God who we don’t know. We’re supposed to learn about Him, study the words He left us and understand the stories to the best of our ability. However, the slight shift in perspective, to me, is what makes being a follower of the Living God rather exciting. It’s where I start to take risks, do things that scare me a little bit and allow me to see where God is acting because I am in control a little less. It’s the conversations begun without knowing the outcome, the generosity proposed that might not be as planned and the stories that are worth sharing. After all, no one stands around a New Year’s Eve party and gains a crowd telling about the predictable and expected. It’s when we do something a little different, hear something unexpected that sparks laughter and is reflective of a love that is bigger than our own that’s worth sharing.