Christmastime is done (nearly. Technically, it’s done tomorrow) and so we face the new calendar year with a few familiar options;
Wake up the Fitbit and overcommit to vegetables for a while.
Deep clean EVERYTHING in an attempt to bring internal order through some external organising.
Refuse to acknowledge that anything is going on, “I will not be ruled over by the absurdity of a calendar!”
Dig out last years resolutions, cringe, and then put them back wherever we found them.
Make outlandish claims about spending less time staring at a phone and binge watching Netflix.
Ask for real help.
Contact a friend.
Cry for a bit.
Laugh for a bit.
Take a deep breath and begin another year.
I believe options can be incredibly helpful and healthy things to have. To choose the path you walk down in life is powerful and important. Personal autonomy is something we know we miss the weight of when it is taken away. Awareness of the influences on our choices is significant too. We all remember siding with the cool kid on the playground about something ridiculous so they would like us. We can believe as we get older, and are hopefully no longer arguing about who is cool on the playground, we become more aware of the influences on our decisions and are therefore able to be strong, mature, and independent decision-makers.
Heads up, we’re not.
Decision making that lines up with our values and desire to follow Jesus is hugely important but really often we’re really bad at it - the irony of free-will independence is we need help to make our own decisions.
Equipped with the knowledge that, left to our own devices, we are horrible decision makers, what can we do about it this year?
There is a nauseating adage, ‘if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together’.
I have grown to strongly dislike the saying (I feel it is misused and misunderstood) however I agree with its intent. My dislike, and its misuse, don’t make it untrue.
We need each other.
Thinking specifically about options, choices, and deciding to follow Jesus, we need each other and the influence of the Kingdom of God in our decision making. As Divine wisdom tells us, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend…”.
To choose a path leading away from community guarantees that our decision making suffers.
Community isn’t perfect and please don’t misunderstand this as a thinly veiled threat to ‘behave in church’ because it’s not. We know community is difficult to get right. A perfect picture of how complicated, but essential, community is can be found in the ark from Genesis (chapters 6 - 9). The picture of life being carried and protected to safety through chaos wasn’t a solo mission. It was a messy, uncomfortable, dangerous, and I presume smelly one.
Community isn’t easy because people are not always easy. We make selfish decisions because yep, you’ve got it, we’re bad at decision making! We eat things we know we don’t need, we drink too much, we say horrible things to people we love, we behave in ways that we wouldn’t ask to be on the receiving end of and yet, Glory took on flesh to lead us to a new way of being. There are ways to live an abundant new life and we can choose to work them out with each other not in spite of each other.
It turns out, to rephrase another dreadful saying, if you want something doing properly, do it
This year we will explore the person, work, and words of Jesus.
What is influencing the path we walk? To help us choose, we have options. We have the influence of our communities of believers, we can gather, we can pray, we can choose to celebrate using communion, we can decide to read Scripture together, we can engage with Core Messages with each other, we can choose to read the whole blog(!).
We are free to let other people, places, and things influence us. I believe deeply that there is
positive value and the influence of the Kingdom of God in the things we share but I also believe, with the same level of passion and commitment, that we get to choose. I cannot make you follow Jesus, our faithful Core Teams cannot make decisions for us, the counsel of friends is essential and I hope I’ve made a case for the necessity of sticking with community but ultimately the ownership and responsibility for our own lives is exactly that, our own.
Following Jesus isn’t accidental or achieved by proximity to religious rites and ceremony. Following The Way is a choice.
A faith saturated, life-given-away, broken bread, “let your will be done”, choice.
Following Jesus is the greatest choice anyone can make.
As you stare down the diary and accept that 2022 is real and we are alive in it, let me encourage you to make your decision to follow Jesus and let it be a practical and personal one.
Examine your rhythm of life. Money is helpful but it isn’t your Master, let employment patterns breathe so that your soul can sing. Family is a gift but it’s not God, sometimes the answer is ‘no’ to family and ‘yes’ to Jesus. Hobbies are brilliant but don’t hide from the Creator in His Creation, escapism isn’t awe and wonder. Seek truth but not just in abstract ways, live a life that is honest. Treat people well, not to hedge a karma bet but because others are created in His image too.
Invest in community, if nothing else, your decisions will get better if you do.
Happy New Year.