Going deep beyond resolutions

It’s that time of year again. After lots of buying, giving and receiving gifts, and like Bob Cratchit “making rather merry” in our holiday gatherings with lots of food and drink, the time has come for us to become responsible again. Sigh!

And thus the onslaught of ads for healthy exercising and eating, decluttering our homes, and for once more planning our financial affairs and buying RRSPs.

Of course New Year’s resolutions are an inescapable element of atoning for our “making merry” excesses, and they provide entertaining distractions in the suddenly-back-to-boring-routine of post-Christmas life.

I’m not a big fan of NY’s resolutions. As a youth and young adult, pondering what resolutions would improve my life usually led me to feel more crappy about myself and hopeless about being able to change. It seemed to me NY’s resolutions were often anything but an exercise in healthy self-esteem.

Have you ever heard the phrase “the issue is not the issue”? In counselling lingo it is a way to help people not get distracted by secondary symptoms and issues so they can laser-in on the stuff that really matters.

Unfortunately our popular culture is full of fluff stuff that gets batted around and discussed as if it really matters. Think of all the entertainment and celebrity shows and magazines, the radio disc jockeys, and the talk radio shows always eager for titillating gossip, true or false.

NY’s resolutions may not be as fluffy as this, and can be fun to banter around, but they also can be “more hat than cattle”. Are the things we make resolutions about really “the issues” in our lives? Exercise, decluttering our homes, eating healthy, financial responsibility, etc. are no doubt important things in our lives, and therefore worthy of attention.

But for us as opposed to our dogs, life is about always going deeper, exploring who we are as spiritual daughters and sons of our Creator God. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel Prize winning author from the Soviet Union, came to the West during the heyday of our material, economic and political progress and was completely non-plussed by what he was.

“We have placed too much hope in political and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession: our spiritual life” he said in a famous speech at Harvard University. He is saying that we have excelled at missing the point by settling for superficial issues and not going deeper into our “spiritual life”.

What are the “issues behind the issues” of our day? We make NY’s resolutions, but why? To what end? Seems to me that a similar dynamic is at work when so many young people in our culture live on hold, not knowing the purpose for their living, or why they shouldn’t party/drink/do drugs as much as they please, or why they should care to make sacrifice in their living, or why they should make a lifelong commitment to a partner and their children, etc. etc.

Lacking a big picture “calling” to a spiritual life that takes us beyond the everyday fluff stuff of life, we try to make the most of life lived at 10% potential. And year after year we make NY’s resolutions we gradually recognize do not deepen our living, relationships and spiritual life. Unfortunately even many churches have dumbed-down the gospel to a message that promises whatever spiritual blessings “I” want.

It is in the spiritual life Solzhenitsyn encourages that our living goes deep. The more we recognize that worldly possessions, pursuits and status are nowhere near as significant as spiritual growing, the sooner we are able to find life as God created it to be.

Biblical faith affirms the goodness of life and creation, but our highest human good is worshipping God and serving Him and our fellow humans.

Moreover Christian faith calls us to abandon the uber-individualism of our day and join ourselves to communities of spiritual fellowship, accountability and sharing where together with others we nurture, study, and celebrate life that grows us ever deeper towards the depths of God’s deepest desires for His children.

On Dec. 15 a remarkable local gal ended a most courageous year-long battle with cancer. Katie (Lichti) Martin of Elmira was the 36-year-old wife of Phil and mom of Molly and Weston, and daughter to a pastoral colleague.

Yes, Katie spent a year dying, but more importantly spent a year growing deeper and deeper into her Lord and Saviour Jesus. My own sister Judy died 24 years ago at age 38, leaving a husband and three young children.

Does your faith and living help you bravely face such tragedies and allow them to draw you deeper ever deeper into the heart of Jesus, who invited all to “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30)

Instead of the usual resolutions about this or that, how about this year going deep and letting this Jesus draw you into the depth and quality of spiritual life God created you to have?

Dave Tiessen