I don’t remember all the New Year’s resolutions I’ve made over the years, but I know I rarely keep them. I resolve to do things like work out at least 3 times a week for at least 30 minutes, then I decide one week that “The Bachelor” is more interesting and there it goes.
Or I say I won’t cuss for an entire year, even under my breath, but let’s be real. Driving in Charlotte is like wading through piranha-infested waters while strapped to an elderly sea turtle. You can’t get anywhere fast, and everyone is out to kill you.
But in 2012, I stuck with it. For 365 days, I kept my resolution, even when I was tired, even when I was out of town, even when I wasn’t in the mood. I did it in line, at home, on my lunch break and sometimes just before midnight. I followed a chronological reading plan and read the entire Bible (with notes!) for the second time around.
Here’s what I learned. (And some of this is repeated from Facebook if you already saw my post):
1. Humility is hard. I like to think I’m not a proud person, in the sense of unhealthy pride in who I am or what I do, but the truth is, there are times I feel that “better than you” attitude creeping in. In my better moments, I realize that I’m not above anyone else, that I have my own countless flaws and hangups, and that God doesn’t love me more than the next person because I don’t do this or that. But sometimes that mental check is nowhere to be found and I find myself getting judgy. I was reminded this past year to look at the plank in my own eye before criticizing the speck of sawdust in someone else’s (Matthew 7:3). And trust me, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to be reminded.
2. Loving difficult people isn’t easy, either. People annoy me. They test my patience, they say mean things, they’re selfish, thoughtless and messy. I’m talking about the woman at the cash register who clearly hates her job and acts like it’s torture to ring up my 5 items. She complains about being there while I’m standing in front of her, her eyelids are heavy with boredom and she mumbles the total of my purchase. I’m talking about the Facebook friends whose immature posts consist of pet peeves, complaints and snide remarks for that certain Facebook friend to see — all misspelled, of course. And I’m talking about that socially awkward person at church who can’t take a hint that it’s time to end a conversation and always talks about the same things. … So how do I love them? First, see #1. I also think it’s funny that I constantly pray for patience, but when God gives me a chance to exercise that patience, I’m gritting my teeth behind the wheel, trying not to roll my eyes or wishing I could tell someone to shut up and get away with it. And so God continues to give me opportunities, setting the perfect example of patience. I even started telling Zoey that patience is a virtue when she tries to wiggle through the door with wet paws before I have a chance to dry them off. We’re learning together.
3. Sometimes I want to reap God’s blessings without spending time with Him. Do you ever pray for something over and over or ask God why something is happening, but can’t remember the last time you thanked Him for His already infinite blessings or even glanced at a Bible? Do you ever ask Him to speak to you without taking some quiet time to reflect on what He’s saying, or without reading His Word? I’ve heard pastors describe the Bible as God’s love letter to us, and after reading it cover to cover twice, I think that’s exactly what it is. I don’t completely understand every word, and some of it is hard to get through (*cough* Leviticus), but when I was done on Dec. 31, I was overwhelmed by His love for me. I wouldn’t think of asking a friend for a favor when I never talk to her or haven’t seen her in ages. So why is it different with God?
4. No one else and no amount of stuff can fulfill my life like He can. This has probably been the hardest lesson for me to learn. It’s not easy to be disappointed by those close to me, or to feel like I have no one who understands. Even if I knew someone would understand, there’s no way I would tell them everything that’s on my mind. But God already knows, so I don’t have to explain. I can scream in the car when I’m frustrated or stand in the bathroom with my face red, tears running down my face and my nose running and know that He hears me, sees me and cares. When I feel like I can’t take it anymore, I’ve learned to pray. It’s not usually an eloquent prayer, but more of a plea to take my worries and insecurities away, help me see where I’ve gone wrong and to please make me feel whole. I’ve learned to talk to God like a friend and not a grandfatherly figure who floats around the universe. I’ve learned that it’s OK to say, “How long do I have to endure this?” or “Why won’t you intervene?” He already knows what I’m thinking anyway. I’ve also learned to follow up those questions with, “What can I learn from this?” and “How can I glorify you in this?” Even a great job, a closet full of clothes and a wonderful husband just can’t give me the deep comfort God can. And that’s the way an all-powerful, omniscient Lord should be.
5. Mend relationships. How can I say I love God when I’m not loving another person He’s created? Another person, I might add, who is also in His image. Matthew 5:23-24 says, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” How we treat others reflects what we think of God. If I owe someone an apology, I better, in my mom’s words, “Make it right.”
6. Revelation is one crazy/awesome book. Just in the past few months, through Sunday school and my own reading, I’ve started to understand Revelation. The main thing I get out of it: God wins. It’s not that I didn’t know that before, but with so many terrible and depressing things going on in the world, that really stuck out to me. Those who follow Christ are persecuted now and will continue to be, but man can do nothing to come between us and eternity in paradise. Our bodies will die, yes, but only to go onto eternal bliss. (Also, at the end during the battle between good and evil, I pictured a white-haired Gandalf riding down the hillside on a white horse. I love “Lord of the Rings” so much.)
7. I don’t want a stagnant faith. Too often, people say they believe in God, but you’d never know by the way they speak or act. They say they are Christians, but nothing sets them apart. Or maybe they talk and act like Christians most of the time, but when it comes to sharing their faith or standing up for it, they are apathetic, stale, lifeless. I’ve been there, and I don’t want to go back. My current job has been such a blessing for me in this area because it’s reignited my passion for Christ. I love what John 10:10 says: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Abundant life, here I come.