Since I’m a constant work-in-progress, you should know that I absolutely have a lot of resolutions. Not so much for this coming year, as I do for life in general. I know myself well enough to know that I don’t stick to New Year’s resolutions very well anyway. No matter how many times I underlined “STOP EATING SO MUCH JUNK FOOD” it still never stuck.
I’m looking at it from a different perspective this year; instead of making a list of things that I want to start doing, I’m looking at things I’m going to stop doing. (Obviously besides drinking so much coffee because, let’s be real, I’m human.) As my favorite comedian John Mulaney said, “It’s so much easier…to just not do things than to do them.”
- Stop comparing myself to other people rather than Jesus.
I do this a lot. Too much. It’s a double-edged sword. I look at people around me that (appear) to be living such a rockin’, perfect life of faith and commitment to Jesus and I think “I should be more like them.” So I listen to the music they listen to, read the books they recommend, and do whatever I can to earn their approval. After all, these people obviously seem close to God and if I can be close to them too, then I’ll also be closer to God.
Did you catch the issue there?
Of course, we need fellow brothers-in-arms to set an example and point each other to Christ, but we forget that Jesus literally died to take out the “middle man” between us and God. When we think that our attachment to Jesus comes through someone else, we stick a person in between ourselves and God, and thus, our relationship with Christianity becomes more about serving that person than God. We don’t stop to check our hearts and how those stand before God, and instead we focus all of our attention on the external and pleasing those who can see what we wear for the world.
The flip-side of this trap is comparing ourselves in a “downward comparison” – making ourselves out to be greater than others. “I’m a better Christian than so-and-so because I dress more modestly.” “I’m a better Christian than so-and-so because I’m at church more often.” “I’m a better Christian than so-and-so because I vote Republican” (since when did political parties become religious affiliates?) If we measure by that standard, first, you fall guilty of the sin of judgment, but also, you are NEVER going to grow as a Christian. You can always find someone that appears to be failing in some way that you are succeeding as a Christian. Continuing with that standard means that you never need to grow. Never need to change. Never need to feel conviction about anything in your life.
As Christians, I’ve very often noticed that we don’t desire to be more like Jesus – we desire to be more like the people around us. We desire to gain their approval, or achieve higher status than the ones we believe to be less desirable than we are. Jesus could have come to earth, died on the cross, risen again and saved humanity in less than a week. But instead, He spent around 30 years living a ministry on earth, laying the foundation for the early church, and teaching disciples. He came to set the example for us – I’m going to stop throwing that away in pursuit of measuring against other humans.
- Stop saying I’m praying for someone when I’m really…not.
Subtext: also go ahead and build the habit of praying regularly for my friends and family. Often times when people share their hearts with me, they follow with “So if you can be praying about that…” and I tell them I will. And then I forget. Which is too bad because when someone offers their heart to me, the absolute best thing that I could do in response is pray for them. Really, genuinely, heartfelt pray for them. And while I’m on that subject, I really should be praying for my friends and family regularly. I’ve noticed that I don’t really think to put petitions for my loved ones in front of God until something goes really wrong in their lives. I don’t pray for them to have God’s protection ahead of time. I don’t pray for Him to pour His wisdom over their decisions. I don’t pray that they would be encouraged in their pursuit of Him. Until something starts going wrong, it doesn’t really occur to me to pour forth prayers for the spirits of the people I love. In one of my PR classes this last semester they taught us over and over “The best crisis management starts way before there is ever a crisis.” The best way to pray for someone starts far before they start having a crisis that they need help with.
- Stop surrounding myself with justification rather than validation
I have this really bad habit…I seek out “non-judgmental” people. By “non-judgmental” I mean, people that won’t call me on my crap. People that have low-to-no expectations of me and don’t hold me to much of a standard. When I’m in a place in my life where I’m not feeling too good about myself, those are the people that I gravitate towards. I don’t want people that are going to be honest with me about my issues, I want people that will tell me my issues are non-issues. I want people that will help me come up with excuses for why the wrong things I’m doing are actually not that big of a deal. I want people that help me silence my convictions and help clear the path for me to chase my bad decisions.
The saddest thing is that I have plenty of friends that are real with me and call me out when they need to. And yet, when I want to hide from my sins, those aren’t the people I turn to. I seek out the ones that help me justify my sins rather than point me in the direction of changing my heart.
I’m not saying that I need people that are going to beat me over the head with self-righteous judgement. I’m saying that when push comes to shove, my habit needs to be to seek out the people that will remind me of where my priorities are supposed to be, and will love me enough to push me there.
- Stop neglecting the need to share the Bible with other Christians
I’m not sure why this is, but I rarely recommend to people that they should read the Bible. I do not remember the last time that I gushed about something I read in the Bible. Honestly. I gush about books like The Hate U Give, or Mere Christianity, or The Screwtape Letters. I gush about sermons and podcasts I listen to. When someone comes to me and asks for a new Bible Study, I have many to rattle off, but rarely do I say “I just finished reading *insert book of the Bible* and it was really good! I can give you my notes and you can read through it for yourself.” We read other people’s teachings on the Bible, which is good, but someone telling me about something in the Bible will never be as good as reading the Bible for myself. I’m noticing a trend that Christians aren’t reading the Bible. It isn’t that we discourage the Bible, we just don’t do a whole lot to encourage the Bible. I think we take it for granted that Christians read the Bible and don’t pursue much deeper than that. I’ve started to notice that…my generation of Christians don’t read the Bible that much. Sure, we read a verse or two here and there when sitting in church or if an author references a specific passage. But we don’t often sit down and read chapters at a time. I don’t often spend time reading the Bible deeply and praying about the passages I find. It’s a little like waiting for Moses to come down from Mt. Sanai with God’s word, when we’ve been invited to Mt. Sanai to hear from God ourselves. In 2019, I’m not waiting on Moses anymore – I’m heading up the mountain myself.
New Year’s Day is an interesting holiday. It sparks feelings of inspiration for the next year, as well as warm-fuzzy-feelings for the memories we made in the previous year. This coming year is going to be great, because every year, in it’s own way, is great. A year is a long time and I’m so excited for what 2019 is going to bring, share and teach all of us.