New Year, The Same You?
The Trap of Bettering Ourselves
I cannot count the amount of times I have heard the phrase, “New Year… New You!” over the last few weeks. My Facebook is littered with motivational snippets encouraging us all to do better in 2014, whilst my Twitter feed contains more one-liners for fixing your life with a silver bullet than one could ever desire.
Oh, and isn’t it so tempting to join in? My addiction to social media topples under the weight of resolutions to make this year my year… whatever that means. Maybe if I could just lose the five extra pounds, the shame I feel when indulging in my favourite peanut butter toast would lighten. Maybe if I could simply get myself organised, I wouldn't be so crippled by the constant anxiety surrounding my degree. If I take more chances, be more adventurous, be more loving, more kind, then I will be satisfied.
Oh soul, isn’t it so much easier when I condemn the sin and not the sinner? Isn’t it so much sweeter to my ears to hear that sin is the problem, as opposed to my rotting heart? A lack of kindness can simply be vanquished by a resolve to say nicer things, as opposed to the lack of self-discipline my mind often betrays. And this can be the problem with “resolutions”, they attack the sin, without addressing the sinner.
Now, I’m not attacking all resolutions - you probably should try to exercise at least a few times a week, and resolving to read your bible more is a solid and worthy decision.
But if you are placing the weight of your satisfaction on bettering yourself, then, girls, it will only satisfy for a fleeting moment before you find something else that you want to fix. Resolutions have a way of collapsing under our expectations.
The same goes for people. I love The Notebook as much as the next girl, but finding a love like that between Noah and Allie is never going to leave you feeling whole. It just isn’t. You are burdening a human soul with the job of providing for you in the ways that only your Heavenly Father can. From someone who made this mistake when she was young and inexperienced in a relationship, please hear me when I say that placing these expectations on others will only end in tears.
By making attempts to better ourselves and taking the problems away from God and His mercy, we are, in effect, saying that we can fix ourselves far better than God ever could. This is the way of the world; to follow a self-determined path that bleeds into our identity.
God: Gardener of the Roots
Oh, but God, how He saves us from our blindness.
“But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus”. (Ephesians 2:4)
Did you catch that? In Ephesians 2, I don’t see any mention of God idly sitting by as we search desperately for him. Nor do I see any mention of New Years Resolutions leading to our salvation. No, God in His lavish mercy, reached down and plucked us from our wandering and our sin, and gave us life. He began the process of reconciling us to our Father, which in turn begins to uproot the sin in our lives and the fruit they bear.
Oh, and those roots. How deep they go. How deep do the roots of guilt, shame, anxiety, lust, comparison, weave themselves into our identity. These roots all stem from a failure to be connected to our Creator, allowing the destructive behaviour to be fertilised and protected. The behaviour is like a weed born from the root - by plucking it out from the ground, you can be sure that another will rise up elsewhere. No, uprooting depends on being reconciled with our Father.
Do you feel the pain of those sinful roots? The pain that sin causes us, be it our disappointment in our failure or the external consequences of denying God? Of course you do, but take heart because God is pulling up the roots.
These roots that so greatly paralyse us can only be destroyed by being pulled all the way out into the light and laid out for all to see. Don’t do what I do and go, “well if I’m such a screw-up of a Christian then maybe I’m not truly saved!” Oh, no. No, dear one.
As you enter this year of 2014, maybe you are looking back at 2013 and feeling disappointed with your track record. Maybe you’re feeling a strong resolve for 2014 to be better, even if that means taking matters into your own hands. But trust me when I say this, it won’t fix anything.
Run to your Creator, precious girl. Pick the pieces up off the floor and run to Him.
Cling to Him and your church family as God begins to do business with those roots of yours. Pray for the quick rip of the plaster, the silver bullet, but lean in as God begins in you a masterpiece all of His own.