I don’t know about you, but this time of year stresses me out. We go from bowing our hearts at a manger cradle, embracing family, lavishing gifts on loved ones, and feasting to burying ourselves in guilt, resolving to do better, and flailing. Give me Christmas, please. Give me advent. Give me anything but this New Year’s I-Can-Do-It-If-I-Just-Try-Harder death trap. My throat’s constricting just thinking about it.
Lord knows, I want to do better. I want to be more, and in some ways less. I want that so very much. But I’ve been around this guilt-track one too many times to know that if change is happening in my life, it won’t be happening because I finally willed it enough. Change happens by the grace of God. Repeat: change happens by the grace of God.
I have tried to make change happen in my life through white-knuckling it. I’ve tried to make change happen in other peoples’ lives by loving them into it. I’ve tried to make change happen with schedules, regimens, and to-do lists. It doesn’t work.
Now hear me, I’m not saying we can or should be lazy, flippant, or haphazard in our pursuit of change. I’m not saying that schedules or to-do lists or scales or love or determination may not be advantageous in our pursuit of change. What I am saying is that they will never get you to change without the grace of God at your back.
Dear friend—dear self—please remember, nothing changes unless God fills the sails with the breath of His pleasure.
Do you want to live a life more pleasing to God? Good. Do you want to be more faithful in your time alone with Him? Good. Do you want your words to be full of grace and wisdom when you speak with your children or co-workers or neighbors? Good. Do you want to live a healthier life-style? Good. Do you want to dedicate your time to finally learning to play an instrument or picking up a new language? Good.
But if you have the audacity to think to attempt any of these things in your own strength, for your own purposes, apart from the grace of God, well friend, enjoy the rollercoaster. I’ll see you on the other side. Because when we attempt things, even good things, without even petitioning God about them, something’s bound to go haywire. You may end up rocking that resolution while totally neglecting other important aspects of what God has called you to do. You may flail when you run out of strength and despair of ever changing. Depression may ensue. You may nail the change but become arrogant and suffocating to be around in the process. Or you may, and I hope this is the case, end up on your knees before God asking Him if this change is one He wants for your life and if so if He’d be pleased to strengthen you with whatever it takes to make it.
So, dear ones, let’s just skip the roller-coaster, please. Can we instead both start 2014 off right? Can we start it on our knees? Can we start it by asking God what changes He wants to see in our lives? Would we be willing to listen—truly listen—to His answer? It may not be where we want to put our energies. Can we just go ahead and confess that in ourselves we are not enough to be better, but that we truly and desperately need help to change? Let’s get real; we desperately need help to even truly want to change. That’s better.
So God, here we are, a mess, at your feet, desiring (but not nearly strongly enough), the changes that will bring us more of your abundant life. Here we are, so blind to the changes we need the most. And here we are asking for your grace, leaning into it, falling. By your grace and only if it is for your glory, help us. Change us and empower us to change. Change the way we seek change.
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