Many people who resolved to change their lives on New Year’s Eve/Day have determined it is much too difficult to make those changes. And, it is. It is difficult to stop smoking, to stop eating without thinking, to add exercise that take off pounds and inches we vowed never to have on our sacred bodies. I have had those intentions, too. In my life, the most difficult to keep were those that, today, make me most proud of myself.
Here are a few:
I vowed to exercise on a regular basis and with only a few lapses, have kept that self-promise. The degree of intensity is not as great as it was 30 years ago but I am still keeping on. Thirty-years ago, my husband and I vowed to exercise together. After a few days he stopped, saying that he did not enjoy the exercise. That was the end of his exercise effort.
It was a different New Year’s Day when I decided that I would stop procrastinating and get a career (rather than a job). That career, starting nonprofit organizations, lasted 20 years, though not in the same physical location. The job (teaching as adjunct faculty at University of Colorado in Colorado Springs) was in the same place with changing faces. For much of the 20-year span, I liked the teaching but never felt as though I had what it takes to teach even though my students rated me quite high. The career (the one before this pastoring thing) was right up my alley. Start a program, grow it, watch it flourish and leave it to those better suited to administering.
One day, a June day not a New Year’s day, I resolved to go to seminary. Looking back, I see that this calling combines the things I do best: preach and start new things. I also see that I needed the sometimes painful lessons I learned in the first two parts of my working life to be successful at what I am now doing.
Interesting that it was not a New Year’s resolution that brought me to this God-directed career but a life change that happened when my mother died. I determined that her legacy was for me to take risks. Preaching and unorthodox ministry are risky. What I worry about most - and who would not? - is that I will fail at this. I worry because my vanity would suffer but I worry more because I can’t stand to disappoint God.
How does God deal with those who have been a disappointment? In scripture we learn that God is well-pleased, protective of the people, attentive because help is often sent, and even when the people in the Older Testament forget about the covenant, God remembers and keeps it. Maybe my disappointing God comes under this last: God remembers and keeps the covenant. Even so, I want perfection at this unorthodox ministry and I see that as a person, perfection is beyond my grasp.
My New Year’s resolution for 2011? Don’t worry so much about what God “thinks” and don’t worry about disappointment. The worry would be if I never tried. So far, this year, I have kept this resolution, though it is early times. When I find a grocery line, I stand in it to see what conversation develops. When a door for a dialogue about how I view God and religion opens I take it. And when I worry that God could find someone to do this better, I remember that God has many people who do ministry differently to reach those who are different from those I am called to lead. I think God’s disappointment would come if I did not try. And then, God would understand and love me anyway. How great is that?