January 7, 2018
We are met here at the grave site of all the New Year’s resolutions that we so fervently made on January 1 … and have already smashed to smithereens! May they rest in peace! Have you ever wondered why our best intentions have such short half-lives? Try this on for size.
We spend all or our childhood learning those habits of behavior that make us good citizens and keep us out of jail and bedlam. Once learned, we never think of those things again. To change those behaviors requires just as much thought and attention and planning as acquiring them did in the first place. And by this time in our lives, we have so many such habits and so many demands that require thought and attention and planning that crowd our lives that we have neither the time nor the psychic energy to make any change at all. The unpleasant truth is that we used to be rational creatures; now we are creatures of mindless habits and routines.
We even have sayings to express this phenomenon: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks; old maids come in all ages and sexes; … one good custom may corrupt the world; (this next is my favorite) t’aint broke, don’t fix it. You should feel free to add your own.
The problem is this: we have to change; we have to think; life is not what it was when we were learning our good habits (or our bad ones, for that matter!)
So, to assist us in changing there are all kinds of help: groups and gums and patches, books and biofeedback and ‘bibles’ for all sorts of folk, meditation, mindfulness and mantras. But all of them rely the same fundamental insights. There is no changing the person who insists on going it alone; there no change accomplished with wishing it alone; there is no change accomplished by a one-time decision.
Now, if Christian life means growing in likeness to Christ until we achieve that perfect likeness that is the resurrection, then it means a life of unremitting changing, of ever-new challenges, constant re-alignment. These changes, like all changes demand companionship (church membership), attention (prayer, study and meditation), correction (penance). And the more often one does these things, the greater the degree of change in the right direction, the more
Permanent the progress and the more this change becomes a pattern of life – ongoing conversion to Christ.
Christians, you see, are not different in the hardships they face with change. But they are different in the goal (resurrection) and in the assurance of success (Jesus has risen), and in the freedom to start again over and over (absolution). And we are never alone in carrying out our resolutions, because our ‘companion’ is Christ himself who is ever the same in our regard, yesterday, today and forever.
Really and truly and almost unchangingly yours,