A Simple Approach To A New You in the New Year

I do not do new year’s resolutions, at least not in the traditional way.  I have tried different approaches to it and have found most forms of this approach lacking.  The one thing I have learned through all those trial and error methods is they tend to be hung up on the start date.  “I’ll start the first of the year,” or “I’ll wait till I’m 30 and then begin,” or something of the like.  

There are two things which I have found to be most helpful.

First, when you have resolved to do something, whatever it is, determine the soonest possible date to begin doing it and do it, period.  In other words, no waiting.  Do it.  Somethings you might need a doctor’s’ okay for but most of the changes we usually make just need to be done.  Get started - go for it.  The wait just makes it worse.  Early morning lap swimming is what I think of.  After stretching, just diving in and going makes it easier.  

Second, do one thing.  Too often people want to tackle five or six things: start running, start lifting, drink more water, eat less red meat and eat more fruit.  Try to do too much, you do very little.  Instead let the habit approach take over, that it takes 30-40 days to develop a habit.  When it comes to getting healthy, I have found if you start with one of these, like exercising, your body will start sending you the signal for more water or more fruits and vegetables.  

There is a natural resistance to the reorganization of the body.  I always remember getting shots in the butt as a kid.  I would always tense up and my rear would hurt for something close to week!  When I finally realized that this little pain would heal whatever the sickness was, I learned to relax and the pain and soreness would subside as well.

And what applies to our physical bodies has also shown to be true in our mental and spiritual bodies.  Life changes and our moral development can cause undo stress.  Our emotions give way to anxiety or depression or anger or a number of other things.  Just as our bodies are not intended to remain in an adolescent state (thank the Lord!), our self is not made to stay in an adolescent state internally either.

In “The Evolving Self,” Dr. Robert Kegan observes these changes, “we may hear grief, mourning, and loss, but it is the dying of a way to know the world which no longer works, a loss of an old coherence with no new coherence immediately present to take its place.  And yet a new balance again and again does emerge...it is a new life, not a return or a recovery (pg 266).”  These are most often the changes we did not plan on, but they will cause us to grow up nonetheless.  

Funny thing is, we talk about transformation in religion but we are only comfortable with it to a point.  We have determined in religion there are places we are only comfortable with going.  We even try to define this for others.  When I was planting a new church, I withheld a raise for myself.  An outside supporter of the church said to me, “Ken, you’ve been called to start a church not take a vow of poverty.”  I determined this was not the right person I needed in that position.  

In and out of the church, of other religions too, I suspect, success is determined on symbols of power.  Most of our society views and measures our success based on symbols of success.  Moral development theories observe this is where most of us find ourselves as a home base.  It is measured in the size of homes and the types of cars.  It is in the size of your church or in Super Bowls you have won, or the titles after your name.  There is a lot of good to be done here.  But it is not where we ought to stay.  Jesus calls us out of this early in his public preaching when he said, "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).”

In recent reading, I got stuck on Francis of Assisi’s life.  Father Simon Tugwell writes about how Francis’ worldview was changed by his encounter with Jesus Christ.  Francis saw that, “Christ came into the world as a servant, not a lord.  He was content to be at the mercy even of his enemies.  he surrendered himself even to death (131, “Ways of Imperfection”).”  In the forming of the order, Francis always struggled with the role of leadership.  He was insistent that the Franciscan monks remain in the church and supportive of local clergy.

We are to be changed people.  The teachers, the fathers and mothers of the Christian faith are all insistent on a change taking place within our lives.  We confuse it with various symbols or sects, non-essentials to the faith even.  Poverty is not the central tenet of monastic orders, “...it is rather the readiness to be in a position in which it is impossible for you to insist on your own will (131, ibid).” Kinda sounds a little Methodist if you ask me. Our will is to be in submission to that of Christ Jesus.

In this new year consider a more simplistic way and approach to your life.  Consider beginning where the giants of the Christian faith seem to have begun, by being obedient to Jesus Christ.  Read the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John through this month and mark down where Jesus’ words seem to speak to you.  Then, focus on memorizing that one call to obedience each month AND seek to live it out as well that you might begin to be formed into the image of God this year.   

May you know God's mercy this year!


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