I try to approach each year’s end and new beginning with sober self-examination and pose the question to myself “What if this was the last year of your life?” I think about how I’ve lived, the course I’m taking each day, and what I’d change. I always want to be kinder and more gracious to those around me. I don’t want to waste my life.
This year, as I prayed over all this, and reviewed last years’ accomplishments and failures, I felt one thing becoming quite clear. All the desires that boiled down to wanting to care for and love my family well, all the career planning and redirecting, all my aspirations to become a supurb home chef to nourish my family well, improve my health, as well as declutter every nook and cranny of our house…they all boil back to that one deep-seated motive that underlies it all. That purpose I’m made for.
I’m not one to choose a ‘word of the year’, but somehow, it came and found me amid the mess of imperfections and half-met desires of my life. Worship. Its what I’m made to do, and I do it wether my soul lifts itself up to Christ or to something lesser. It’s when we become tangled up in worshiping ourselves or some idea of what our life “should be” that we become overwhelmed and discouraged. We don’t realize we’ve made an idol of something until it comes crashing down. Only then do we find we’ve traded the fulfillment of God-glory for the illusion of self-glory.
Everywhere the current catch-phrase seems to be “New Year, New You,” refering to health and wellness, weight loss, organization, etc. etc. etc. The culture pulses with the hope that we can make ourselves over, become that perfect mom, wife, woman, athlete, chef, homeschool supervisor, doctor, reach the perfect weight, or whatever else… This taps into our deep seated longing that we can really change, that we can become whole again. Everyone longs for a redemption and the new striving of the New Year Season only magnifies it. But we can find ourselves clamoring for self-glory rather than God-glory without even realizing we got there.
The reality is, people can change, and it can be lasting. We can be redeemed from the messes we’ve made. We can love our families better, tend to our health in a wiser way. But it’s not going to happen by simply creating a daily checklist of things to complete, keeping a perfect early morning routine. Sure, we can make things look good for a while on the outside, with maybe a cleaner house and smaller waist. But we don’t get to redemption by our our striving.
Let me tell you what transforms us. It’s sitting at the feet of Christ, looking at his nailscarred hands, and knowing He was perfect for us. In worshiping Christ, we are transformed. When we meditate on what he’s done, the length He came to rescue us from ourselves, the compassion he shows us, the perfect and deep love that He offers us despite the fact he knows us better than we know ourselves, including all the gunk and messy and sin…that’s when we start to change.
We think about the Cross and suddenly we have more patience. We hunger for Christ, and suddenly the comfort food isn’t as comfortable anymore. We finish decluttering that dreaded closet only to find that while we did, the 5-year old rearranged every piece of furniture in her room, the dresser drawers removed and dumped out to become part of an elaborate, imaginative world. The dishes might be piled in the sink and the laundry basket spilling over. Work goals for the day might be foiled by a child who’s sick and needy. I might not get to stock up on the veggies and fruits as frequently as I like, when my kids are tired and need naps more than a trip to the grocer. But this year I want to relearn how to Worship in those moments. I want to figure out how to turn the times where it all feels like it’s falling apart into moments I can really, genuinely offer a ‘sacrifice of praise’. I know it has a lot to do with exercising gratitude. Gratitude turns the heart to worship.
Don’t get me wrong: I am still working on routines and loose schedules that can help things run smoothly and use our time well. I do have written goals for many areas of my life, and action steps I’m taking to move toward them. Because I am a steward of this life, of my health, of this family I feed, this house I tend. I’m a goal-oriented person and work better with lists and such, as more gets done and mouths get fed and laundry completed this way. I am shifting my focus in completing goals this year to a more processed-focused method rather than a results-focused method. The scaffolding that holds these plans up is the worship of Jesus. When we set our plans with that end in mind, we will love people better and care for the gifts He give us better, and in all of it feel His joy.
I often need to preach to myself that my “To-Do” list was nailed to a Cross about 2000 years ago. That worship doesn’t need to wait to happen until the list is all checked off and the extra weight is lost and all the laundry folded. Worship can happen in the middle of my mess. Worship can be part of the process. In fact, more than being part of the process, it’s what the process is all about. It’s what life is all about. I don’t have to get wrapped up in results, as the way to not waste my life is to Worship right smack in the middle of it all, in the middle of the process. I’m called to Worship a God who holds every atom together, sustains and forms every life, orchestrates every sunrise and full moon, who hung the starts and crafted my infant’s toes in my womb. I’m called to spend my life Worshiping Him and bringing others to Worship Him. This is the way to not waste my life. This is where a year begins…