by Joanie Butman
This has been a week of resolutions – crowded gyms, increased attendance at Bible Study and plenty of leaf turning as people look toward a new year and a fresh start. Sadly, statistics show that most resolutions don’t last through the end of February. Personally, I think February is being generous, as I’ve never lasted to the end of January. Last year was the first time I made a resolution and stuck with it. What made last year different from a lifetime of failed resolutions? I chose to let God lead the way instead of trying to power through on my own.
Yesterday was the celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany, which commemorates the day the Wise Men finally found the long searched for Messiah. Contrary to most nativity scenes, the Wise Guys were not in attendance that night. In fact, Christ was a toddler by the time they discovered him, which indicates the duration of their quest. The Magi set a goal that lasted well beyond any New Year’s resolution. They were not deterred by their own doubts, or those of others, nor detours of any kind. They traveled confident they would be lead to that which they sought. Theirs wasn’t an easy journey. I don’t think the search for the Divine is for anyone. I can’t say for sure, but traveling hundreds of miles on a camel can’t be pleasant. There must have been varying weather conditions making it difficult to see the star. They must have lost sight of it from time to time as we all do – but they kept going, confident in their mission but not necessarily of their final destination.
Despite the obstacles, they dared to believe that which others doubted. On any kind of journey of discovery or self-improvement there are times when it seems futile, when the fog of self-doubt clouds our judgment and nags at our consciousness, questioning the wisdom of the journey. It could even be those around you, not liking your new direction, who try to convince you to turn back and settle for the status quo. Whatever the case may be, we’re all tempted at some point along the way to settle for living “as is” rather than choosing to risk leaving the comfort of our old ways of thinking.
That is the crossroad of life – a transition point of some sort – where our choice will define the rest of our lives. It could be an illness, a financial crisis, a tragedy, even a success – something that presents a personal challenge. It doesn’t have to be drastic. It might simply require a change of attitude, a change of priorities, or a change of beliefs, but that will not make it any easier. A wise priest once counseled me, “It is much more difficult to change the way we live than it is to change where we live. The hardest part is giving up old thought patterns and ways of acting and reacting.”
Tony Jarvis, author of With Love and Prayers and a wise man in his own right, comments about the choice of the Magi to return home a ‘different’ way:
That may mean nothing more than the literal fact that they went home by a different route to avoid Herod in Jerusalem. But it also may mean that for the rest of their lives there was a difference; that somehow, their lives had been changed forever by their contact with the baby; that the rest of their lives would be lived ‘another way.’
My New Year prayer for all of us is that we choose to begin this year ripe for adventure and willing to follow the path Christ sets before us. For some that may entail choosing a ‘different way.’ For others, it may be choosing a renewed sense of purpose and excitement. Sometimes the light we’re following will be obvious, other times we may have to choose to travel by faith as the Wise Men did. I’m sure you’ve all heard the ancient Chinese proverb “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." For many, that first step will entail an enormous leap of faith. However, when you choose to let God lead the way, He promises to give you just enough light for the step you’re on regardless of its difficulty.
I will leave you a quote from Rick Warren’s Daily Hope devotional yesterday morning. It, too, was all about new starts.
God is asking you to do something greater than you’ve ever done before: He’s asking you to depend on Him completely. That may seem a bit scary. But when God asks something of us, you and I have a choice: We can fall back on our fears and stay the way we are. Or we can move past our fears and step forward in faith. God is always waiting to meet us on the other side of any step of faith.
What will you choose?