I’ve already messed up my New Year’s resolution.
I had a goal last year (and this upcoming one) to work through my reading pile. For you guys that know me, I’m a reader, always have been. I’ve got this stack of books and articles I’ve been meaning to read through sitting on my shelf since January. Problem is, for me, there is so much good stuff to read and I keep finding more and more good ones to add to that pile, it never ends. So now, instead of getting ahead on my reading pile I keep piling on new ones until today my reading pile has an uncanny resemblance to the leaning tower of Pisa. But it’s not only my tower of books; I’ve added a whole new reading pile of library books into the trunk of my car!
Not just with my bookish resolution, but I think across the board, I’ve given up on New Year’s resolutions as a whole system of living. There’s just too much that can go wrong with them. Life happens, we have a good start but then something derails us and we give up on the whole idea and wait till next year to start. Countless self-help books, have surprisingly offered this same (good) advice, give up on resolutions, instead make slow and steady lifestyle changes that last over the long haul. This has been some of the best advice I’ve received on how to live a healthier and more consistent life for myself.
We work for the long haul, not just short-term fixes, but long term growth. Take my little example of my reading pile(s). In a small way I can choose to think of it as a negative, a place where I am always failing and falling behind at. Not a big deal in and of itself of course, but it can become an overarching way of seeing my world, always behind and failing. Or I can think of it as a lifestyle growth point where I work towards setting aside time in my day to skim and read all of that great stuff I want to put in my head. Of course, I’ll have days and weeks where life happens and that kind of reading just doesn’t, but that’s okay. What I’m trying to develop is a long-term habit of consistent behavior, not just a short-term fix. In this way of looking at my world, instead of being a falling behind failure, I’m a falling forward reader who always has more things to look forward too.
Again, my reading shelf is not the biggest concern in life but it’s a way of thinking about how we can approach this New Year of Grace that God has given to us to live out our Christian discipleship consistently.
I bring up my reading pile for another reason as well. Stuck deep in that pile has been a book I’ve wanted to read for a while but has just finally emerged from the papery depths; Sabbath as Resistance by Walter Brueggemann. If you haven’t read this one yet, pick it up when you get a chance; you’ll enjoy the read. Here is the description from the back cover:
“Discussions about the Sabbath often center around moralistic laws and arguments over whether a person should be able to play cards or purchase liquor on Sundays. In this book, popular author Walter Brueggemann writes that the Sabbath is not simply about keeping rules but rather about becoming a whole person and restoring a whole society. Importantly, Brueggemann speaks to a 24/7 society of consumption, a society in which we live to achieve, accomplish, perform, and possess. We want more, own more, use more, eat more, and drink more. Brueggemann shows readers how keeping the Sabbath allows us to break this restless cycle and focus on what is truly important: God, other people, all life. He offers world-weary Christians a glimpse of a more fulfilling and simpler life through Sabbath observance.”
I love this concept. How true is it, that sometimes when we think of worship attendance it all becomes about rules, and should I or shouldn’t I, or how often have you been in worship, or if the Pastor calls, don’t answer he’s trying to find out why we weren’t in worship, because pastor obviously has an attendance sheet he’s marking off (I don’t by the way). We say I don’t have time for Sunday worship, I’m too busy, too much going on, too early in the morning and the list goes on. We also know how hollow those arguments sound when compared with the reality of what we do spend our time on and make time for in our lives. Beyond the reasons why, worship comes down to a matter of faith and obedience: it is a response of faith to the love God has given you in Jesus and it is a matter of obedience to God’s desire for us to be in worship where we can receive His good gifts. If we find we’re having a hard time with worship, it usually (almost always) goes back to a heart issue and how we see and respond to our relationship with God.
This is a very serious thing and one that is eternally good for us to pay attention to. God does not trifle, he always welcomes us home, but he also will not be mocked. There is something to be said about the seriousness of the consequences of our heart and actions when it comes to a relationship with God. Are you saying yes to God or yes to the world? Which one will save you?
That is an important question, in the high speed, always busy, never time for worship or slowing down world that we live in, Sabbath is Resistance. It is a choice. Sabbath is resisting the restless world that DOES NOT AND CANNOT give you rest for your soul. Sabbath is letting go and saying yes to our God who gives eternal rest and peace to our souls. How do you want to live? How do you want your kids, your loved ones to see how you live? What example do you want to give? One of complacency to a world lost in its own self-importance or one of resistance standing up against the tide of wasted time that wants to sweep you and the people you love away?
But, with that said, and please understand the seriousness of this topic; nothing’s perfect and life does happen. If you are considering this year the seriousness of worship and God’s calling in your life, remember this isn’t about a one time fix, that will ultimately fail because life happens and then you lose your momentum till next year. This is about long term change and growth and health, developing in your life a regular and consistent way of living, though never perfect, is a lifestyle that desires to honor God in all that you say and do and resists the urgency of a world that can never save you.