How many New Year’s resolutions have you made in your lifetime? Have you met someone who’s made only one resolution in their lifetime and met it perfectly? Nor have I. At least, I haven’t met such a person face to face. The apostles and other Jesus followers we read about in the Bible, however, got to interact with the one and only person ever to have met his resolution-of-a-lifetime perfectly: Jesus!
We know that Jesus was without sin, however he was also human and tempted to sin countless times. Rather than framing our lives as only ever striving toward, rather than accomplishing, the perfect, unconditional love Jesus’ showed to his brothers and sisters, we can look at the small, but significant, steps Jesus took to love people and change their lives, and model our day-to-day conversations and activities after those steps.
It’s typical to approach a New Year’s resolution – for example, “In 2017 I will eat healthier and exercise more” – from the perspective of big-picture changes that we want to see in our lives. Having this picture of change in mind is important, however the big-picture perspective sometimes makes reaching the end goal seem pretty overwhelming. For me, it’s difficult to imagine giving up sweets altogether when they’re a part of my daily diet and I really enjoy eating them. And every time I contemplate “getting back into running again,” or “working out 3 times a week,” I get disheartened because I don’t know how to get to those “states” of being healthier.
What would happen if we let go of reaching an ideal state, and let go of viewing a goal only through the big-picture perspective, and instead think about taking small steps toward those ends? Let’s look at that same resolution to eat healthier and exercise more through the lens of one of our church’s values, Step+, which tells us that “simple steps guided by Jesus accelerate the impact of new life.” Jesus modeled this many times, including asking a woman for a drink of water and then having a conversation with her that changed her life (John 4:1-40), and simply making room in his “busy schedule” to spend time with children, whose parents knew that contact with Jesus would affect them greatly (Matthew 19:13-15).
It may not be immediately clear how some of our New Year’s Resolutions can be comparable to the steps Jesus took, but bear with me. Instead of assuming I could/should give up sweets entirely, I’ve tried cutting out sugar from my diet for one month. It’s long enough that it feels significant (and that I feel physical changes), but not so long that I feel deprived or as though I can never enjoy eating a baked treat again. Even doing something like that for one week produces results. And those positive physical changes? That’s God telling me that taking care of my body – his temple – is worth prioritizing. When I’m feeding my body nourishing foods and don’t feel sluggish, I have more energy and a greater desire to enjoy and love my family, neighbors, and those I meet on a given day. Instead of “working out 3 times a week” every week, I’ve tried saying, “This week I’ll go to yoga class at 7pm on Wednesday and 10am on Saturday.” These classes enable to me to worship God with my mind and body, and I always come home with a bit more patience and love in my heart, ready to share.
It’s taken me YEARS to land on some eating habits and physical/emotional fitness routines that I enjoy maintaining and that equip me to better serve others, and I still mess up way more frequently than I succeed. But I’m learning to take it one Step+ at a time, because, guess what? It took YEARS for Jesus to carry out his mission, too, and he’s with me every step, every day, even (especially!) when I trip and fall along the way.
I’d love it if you’d share your 2017 resolutions and steps with me!