A new year brings opportunities — and challenges — for self-improvement.
told by Deborah
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, descending from the sky from God, as beautiful as a bride on her wedding day. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, “Look! God’s house is with human beings. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his people, and God will abide with them; he will remove every sorrow from their lives. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” And the one who sat on the throne said, “Look! I make all things new.” He also said, “Write! For these words are trustworthy and true.”
My New Year’s resolution is going to be to pray the Lord’s Prayer more often; specifically this part:
Lead us not into temptation,
because I’m telling you, I need it to be answered. Daily. Sometimes hourly. Wherever I look, whatever I do, temptations abound — and so many of them are darned hard to resist.
I’m not talking about the abundant enticements that appear this time of year; those ads for health clubs, nutrition supplements, diet programs, exercise equipment, etc., etc. etc., with their veiled promises of health, beauty, and immortality. Although they do, in a curious way, apply to my situation.
My major temptation — the issue I struggle to resist — is the delight of criticizing and scorning my enemies. And of wishing them ill. Don’t be misled: this isn’t because I’m a wonderful person who yearns to be a saintly soul — it’s almost entirely an issue of self-preservation.
Perhaps because it is so prevalent in our society, or because I’ve been blessed with the company of extremely passionate people, I’ve seen a lot of soul-sickness of late; a sickness so profound and deep that it has affected these folks’ bodily health, as well.
In no way is this to “blame the victim;” illnesses occur, accidents happen, energy and strength fails, often without rhyme or reason. But our outlook and our attitude can influence the way we live — whatever our station in life. I’ve known critically ill, terminal patients who exude radiant joy, full of life in the midst of their dying. And I’ve known people in good health who are pits of putrefaction and decay, filled with hatred and ugliness: the real “living dead.”
I want to be a light-bearer, to live in joy and gladness — not a carrier of malevolence, infected with loathing, scorn, and resentment: a hideous creature of sin.
Which brings us back to the New Year commercials. Just as they promise, I want to be healthy, lovely (at least on the inside!), and filled with life. I want to begin the new year with a new, improved me.
The tricky bit with this “new, improved” business is how hard it is. All of us who have ever attempted a reformed, revised habit or behavior can testify to that!
If everybody else jumped off a cliff, would you jump, too?
~ classic parent question
Unfortunately, the most honest response is: “Probably.”
We are creatures of conformity: we want to be one of the gang, to fit in, to have friends, to relate to others — and, generally, that’s all to the good. Human beings need one another, we are happier and healthier in community — IF the community is a healthy one. And that little word: “if” is the big part of the equation.
We can easily get sucked in to doing as others do; sometimes in order to fit in, sometimes almost inadvertently, just because it’s what’s being done…. and sometimes because it feels good. That’s the challenge I struggle with: there’s something weirdly gratifying about being nasty back at the people who are nasty to me.
It’s almost as if it is contagious — as I described that soul-sickness earlier: a kind of virulent disease. We are tempted to respond in kind; using the same form, succumbing to the same destructive behavior. Equally, we might say it is a sort of reflex: to hit back when someone hits you.
"Turn the other cheek.”
~ Jesus of Nazareth, our Lord and Savior
It’s such gloriously sane-sounding advice, and yet so, so difficult to adopt. Surely a dose of their own medicine, a knock-out punch, a one-up… that’ll show them. Right?
But to “fight fire with fire” gives the evildoer, the opponent, the Enemy more ammunition in the fight against what is good and healing; being nasty and aggressive only contributes to the division and alienation that is tearing our world apart. By answering hate with hate we effectively join the Ugly Crew: we become contributors to what is harmful and destructive, rather than agents of compassion and kindness.
The work of blessing and healing is work: hard work.
Please pray for me — and for all of us — that we may be inspired and empowered to be light-bearers throughout the year ahead, and through all the years to come.
May Divine grace and healing love shine in your heart,
Look to the Light, live in the Light, bright forth the Light.