Better Than A Resolution
One of my favorite pastors, Nicky Gumbel, serves a congregation called Holy Trinity Brompton on the west side of London. Nicky is a member of a neighborhood gym where he plays squash with a group of friends. As the year turned, Nicky observed that his gym was moving in a load of extra weights and equipment to cope with the burgeoning number of people acting upon their New Year resolutions. As of today, January 10th, the extra equipment is being moved back out and the gym has pretty much returned to normal. So much for willpower.
This little anecdote from the other side of the pond is not meant to shame or humiliate those of us who have made resolutions (and possibly failed already(!), but rather to recognize that human willpower on its own is not enough to change things. In order for our resolutions to become reality, we need to hook our willpower up to the engine of habit. This is especially true of our best intentions, the holy and God-given ones! Resolutions have staying power only when they are connected like train cars to the locomotive of training, repetition, and habit.
I started the new year with a couple of days of prayer at St. Francis Retreat Center in DeWitt, Michigan, along with some other retreatants. One of my “to-do’s” during this quiet time was to ask God, in lieu of resolutions, for some guiding words to frame the coming year.
I received two things very clearly for 2020:
- Walk on” - and -
A few comments on each of these and then an invitation for you to join in.
First, in hearing God say “walk on,” I sense God’s hand of affirmation saying that it’s a season for continuing to press forward in a number of ways both personally and pastorally. I also believe that “walk on” implies that I should keep up the literal practice of walking 5+ miles on the daily. Simply, walking is grace that God uses to break through to me; it’s often when I hear him most clearly.
Second, “Bible-before-phone*” is a daily symbol of where God wants my priorities to lie. Bible-before-phone is a literal morning habit I’m practicing by choosing to be in the Word rather than on the internet as a new day dawns. On a deeper level I receive Bible-before-phone as a warning from the Lord that my personal values need to remain tethered to God’s values as expressed in his Word. Life inevitably gets a little grayer each year I get older. God’s revealed word transcends the winds of politics, personal circumstances, and culture.
I wonder if resolving to nurture the habit of “Bible-before-phone” might do you some good, too!
I sense a growing disenchantment amongst friends, family, and co-workers with the long term effects of being plugged into digital media around the clock. Without altogether ditching this necessary part of modern life, I’m trusting that this simple morning habit will give God more permission in my life to keep first things first and lesser things lesser.
Grace and Peace to you as walk on into 2020!
*I first encountered this phrase in 2019 through the writing of Justin Earley at TheCommonRule.org.