HAPPY NEW YEAR!! When the clock struck 12 could you feel it? All that New Year’s potential rushing into the world! A billion promises made by a million people for how things are going to be different and better this time around!? If not, don’t worry, you are not alone. New Year’s and its resolutions are pretty easy to be cynical about. After all, only about 8% of them are kept. So why am I still happy to hear that about 70% of Americans still make a resolution? It is because in it I see God’s still small voice speaking into the world that they were meant for more than what they can create.
The Christian thinker C.S. Lewis once wrote, “The Christian says, ‘Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists…’ If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. Earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.” When I see our resolutions, what I see is a world searching for something new in the same old places over and over again. We want to fix ourselves for ourselves and end up trapped by that vicious cycle: “of me-for me-by me”. Perhaps what we really need, what we really want, is less of ourselves altogether? Perhaps we don’t just want to look better, we want to not care about looking in the mirror at all? Maybe we don’t just want to earn more, we want to be free from that gnawing fear of failure. We are not satisfied with ourselves because the self was never meant to be the focus. Instead, we were meant to be worshipers who focus on God and the Kingdom that is being created around us. For example, we often want to have more to be more secure, but we were never meant to be completely self-sufficient; we were meant to need each other and cultivate a loving community together. We were not meant to compare our body’s beauty, we were meant to use our bodies to create beauty all around us.
This year may your resolution be to break out of this “of me-for me-by me” cycle of self-improvement failure. Instead, let’s take a deep breath and pray a simple daily prayer, “God, open my eyes to your grace and put my hands to your work.” This prayer cannot be accomplished and you cannot succeed or fail at it. There is no way to compare it to others or fake the results. It is simply opening ourselves up to God and God’s actions alone. We don’t make ourselves better Christians. Instead, we make space for grace to speak and wait for God’s still small voice to give us what we can’t make for ourselves; the gifts of grace that are not of this world but are of the God who made all the good in it. Peace, patience, kindness, joy, love, goodness, faithfulness and the strength to endure. These are the fruits of the spirit and thank God that we cannot “self-improve” them into existence. Instead, we get them as gifts along with the thing that we were meant to have above all else, a relationship with God. We need only be willing to hold out our hands and ask.
~ Pastor Mike Ozaki ~