New Years resolutions have never gone very well for me. I can’t think of a single time where the act of turning a calendar page resulted in real and lasting change for me. Maybe it has for you. If that’s the case, you’re the person of whom I was once extremely jealous. Don’t get me wrong. I have changed. For instance, I’m no longer jealous of you. Now, I feel a first twinge of jealousy, and then take that cue as an opportunity to remind myself of the beautiful differences between us all, and the individual journeys on which God is leading you and me. My journey just happens to not be one that includes hitting the gym more or complaining less because the earth happened to hit a specific point in its jaunt around the sun.
I (like many of us) have spent a great deal of my life either trying to change something about myself or bemoaning the things that feel impossible to make different. I’ve learned just a few things along the way. Come find me in another 10 years and I’ll probably have a few more to add to the list. For now, I can think of three. I thought I’d share.
*Change rarely happens outside of community. We’ve all tried it; the pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps and giving ourselves a swift kick in the pants with that same boot. Has it worked for you? It never has for me. The changes that have occurred have been as a result of conversations with friends identifying the common desires, the knowledge of others fighting for the same growth in their own journeys, and someone to call when I feel tired.
*Change almost always happens inside of pain. This is the piece that no calendar page can control. We also unfortunately have little say over what newness will come about. Pain tends to bring about very different change than what we thought we needed. Even in the most seemingly meaningless suffering, there is a softness that presents itself in us. Pain forces a dying to our own demands and desires. It hurts. It sucks. Sometimes it really sucks. It also leaves space for patience and compassion and love to blossom. And In my opinion, that is far more beautiful than well-defined triceps. Far. More. Beautiful.
*I must be kind to myself in order to allow for meaningful and permanent change in my life. When my resolve for change has come from a spirit of self-disgust and shame, it has always ended in failure. Always. Its rather awesome that none of us are motivated for change through shame, don’t ya think? Rather, the times that I have succeeded in following through with the growth I long for, have been the times that I have been kind and accepting enough with myself to acknowledge my own limitations, and provided myself with the grace to take small eensy weensy steps towards wholeness. These little tweaks may feel discouragingly slow at times. But they are also gloriously sustainable, and build a momentum of growth in my life.
I think what’s most lovely about these reflections is that they all reveal something about God and about us:
We are designed to be connected to and in relationship with one another.
Pain is never useless. (This one is excruciating to declare, but I deeply believe its true.)
Shame only leads to destruction, never creation.
Blessings to us as we discover new and natural rhythms for our lives that lead to a more thriving and peaceful existence in 2014.