Thursday, December 31, 2009

10... 9... 8... 7... 6...

A friend from years gone by posted this statement today on a social networking site…
Dear 2009: We are so over. You've been the most miserable year of my life. You lied to me, stole from me, and betrayed me. Worst of all, you shattered my heart without once looking back. But you know what? You will never destroy me because I am strength personified. Don't let my door smack you in the ass as you leave--good riddance!
I began a response. “Actually, it sounds like you owe a lot to 2009.” I should have stopped there but, instead, continued with something about how our character is more clearly defined in difficulty than by ease or even triumph. Impossible though it may seem, the message actually went downhill from there, attenuating to a level of triviality traditionally reserved for cheap fortune cookies. I quickly back-spaced the thoughts into cyber oblivion.

The truth is, in many ways, I share her sentiment. 2009 was not my favorite year and I can't say I'm sorry to see it go. I too find myself happily looking ahead.

Even so, I am not a big New Year resolution guy. Fresh starts? Great. Resolve and subsequent discipline? Let’s go. But, quixotic visions of new identity inspired by a superficial delineation of time? Good luck with that. Still, these superficial delineations are the framework for the world in which I must functionally exist. And, while I don’t believe it possible to make a clean break of the things I don’t like about who, what, and where I am, just because the year is coming to a close; change must find its beginning.

I am seldom completely unaware of the consequences of my actions. I live much more intentionally than that. However, that does not mean potential consequences are the major motivation for many of my choices—especially those I have or will come to regret most. No. Those choices are usually motivated by selfishness, immediacy, even apathy; regardless of any impending consequences.

I cannot speak of my resolve. I will make no personal promises. I'm not sure anyone ever really does. I think it is more accurate to say we have New Year desires—New Year hopes. So, what I long for in the New Year is to live in the full implication and reality of the statements made by a follower of Jesus, two millennia ago.
God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn't deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that.

The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn't deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.

Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God's action in them find that God's Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn't pleased at being ignored.

But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won't know what we're talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God's terms. It stands to reason, doesn't it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he'll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ's!

So don't you see that we don't owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There's nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God's Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?" God's Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what's coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we're certainly going to go through the good times with him!

Romans 8:3-17 [1]

1. Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2002.