Our life is made of seasons. We ebb and flow in different disciplines and commitments. In this final message of 2018, and in preparation to start the new year, Greg walks us through three important questions: 1. What does the Lord want me to retain & renew? 2. What does the Lord want me to let go of? And 3. What does the Lord want me to add to my life that wasn’t there before?
Starling birds are known to group together in mass formations that can mimic real life structures. This process is called murmuration. It is as though they move and act like one thing, with one mind. We don’t know all the reasons why they do this, nor the mechanisms they use to stay on the same page, but in this phenomenon, we do see an analogy for our own body and all of creation. All of reality we know of is made up of smaller and smaller particles in constant motion that make up larger wholes we can visualize. We are all patterns of smaller moving parts, and none of these patterns are eternal.
Just like the starlings, we are in fact shape shifters. The person you see today is fundamentally different at an atomic level than the person you’ll see tomorrow. As Heraclitus famously said, “no one steps twice in the same river.” The water is always flowing so the river you step in with one foot is not the same river you step in with the other. In reality, we are river-like in that way. The only constant is change. Every moment is new, and this is how we experience the passage of time. We fundamentally have to let go of one passing moment in order to live in the next. The process of renewing in the physical world leads to death as we literally disintegrate, but as followers of Christ we see the opposite effect in our spiritual life. By leaving old things behind and constantly becoming new, we grow in spiritual maturity.
As Paul explains in 2 Corinthians 4, the suffering and wasting away is temporary. He knew the suffering he was experiencing was leading him toward a treasure. He models that our ultimate goal is to get our heart and mind both line up with those activities that lead toward the treasure of the Kingdom. Our ultimate question should be what is and isn’t consistent with this treasure we’re trying to align our heart with.
Three questions to consider for the new year:
- What does the Lord want me to retain and renew? Looking back at 2018, where did God show up? Where did he help lead me to new freedom? These are areas that we need to hold on to and actually renew so they don’t become rigid and stale. We need to be asking our self how we adapt this life-giving behavior or practice to who you are now, not to who you were. A couple disciplines can be helpful in this regard:
- Spending intimate time with just you and Jesus enjoying him while he enjoys you. This is the center of everything and is the fuel the Kingdom of God runs on. We can’t rely on what our relationship was in the past. It needs to be constantly renewed. This is where we experience our true worth and significance for God and let it sink in and become real to us. The Spirit makes every experience unique and we get to experience the depths of God’s love for us in a unique way.
- Another key discipline is practicing the presence of God. This simply means being aware of God’s presence on a moment by moment basis. Following Christ starts with a decision, but it needs to be followed by a moment by moment surrender of our life. If we’re not aware we can actually exclude God from our life by simply forgetting and living as if he’s not Lord. This practice is always best done in community with others so we can recognize that the now is where reality lives together. It wakes us up to God and can fill our hearts with gratitude for the present moment.
- What does the Lord want me to let go of? As discussed earlier, life is a river that’s changing moment by moment and year by year. We need to listen so we know what to get rid of. If we’re not aware and ask, then we’ll just keep living the same way we’ve always lived. Some of our activities may not necessarily be bad, they are just no longer appropriate for the new season we’re in. During this listening it may become clear that other behavior needs left behind because of its destructive nature. Anytime something has become a habit, it needs to be examined so we know that it’s still life giving.
- What does the Lord want me to add to my life that wasn’t there before? This can be very difficult because the path of least resistance usually doesn’t include adding in new things. But life is a river, not a pond. A pond represents being closed to newness and a lack of growth. We need to be open to new experiences that will help us continue to grow and mature in our spiritual walk. New things can feel weird at first, but have the potential to create beautiful effects in our life. If our picture of God has grown stale and uncompelling, then adding imaginative prayer may be a helpful way to renew and refresh our picture of God. If we’re open to it, the spirit will show us new paths. This may be as simple as changing how, or where, or what we’re doing while we pray or worship. Fasting from activities like social media, or from food for a meal or a day can also really awaken us to the reality of God around us all the time.
If we stay curious, we stay alive, awake, and growing. When we let old patterns dictate future behavior we get rigid and our spiritual growth is stunted. We always need to be asking questions that will help move our faith forward toward Jesus.
Hide Extended Summary