I love working out in the first two weeks of January.
I love it because I am an extrovert and the gym is packed for two straight weeks until the New Year’s resolutions begin to fade and the soreness and muscle fatigue begins to set in. I love working out alongside the determined bunch whose shadows never darkened the stoops of their gym’s front door the previous year, but O! Are they determined now!
And, I really love when I continue to see these people, the third week, the fourth week. . . the fourth month! I also love it when they see changes in their bodies, resulting from commitment. Sadly, these are the rarer of the New-Year-Resolvers, but they brighten my day, nonetheless. I love seeing people make positive changes to their health and life. But these changes can only occur over a significant period of – time. And with a significant amount of – work.
You don’t get toned legs and bulging arms by showing up to the gym once or twice a year; it’s the daily effort and small incremental shifts that lead to visible change.
“This Time, I Will. . .”
I myself have had many new beginnings:
- Three colleges
- Two mission organizations
- 31 jobs
- 13 countries
- Four states
And every time I’ve embarked on a new beginning, I remember making a resolution.
This time, I will read my Bible every day.
This time, I will tell more people about Jesus.
This time, I will quit that old sin habit.
But the results are always essentially the same. As routine sets in, the progressing days wipe away the zeal of my promise, and I end up right where I started.
Perspective & Patience
A few months ago, my father gave me a statement that has graffitied itself onto the brick wall of my mind:
The ruts of routine become the grooves of grace.
It’s not the loud and exciting moments that define our walk with the Lord, but the spaces in between. The times where there is nothing new or exciting to gush over. The ruts of routine also applied to heroes in the Bible:
- God comes to Elijah not in the wind, fire, or earthquake, but in the silence that followed.
- Abram waited 20 years before God’s promise of a son – was born.
- For Moses, it was 40 years.
- Even Jesus prepared for His ministry for 30 years.
It seems like God is a little more patient than we are.
Of course, it’s tempting to want instant results. We want strong bodies, but with only minimal effort. We want a faith that raises the dead, but don’t take time to read, pray, and fast.
Our Ruts Look Like. . .
- The quiet mornings reading my Bible, glazing over the words because nothing seems to relate to me.
- The nights spent in prayer seemingly speaking to an empty room.
These are the ruts. The disciplines through which we experience the long-term grace of God.
Sure, a passionate worship concert may be more exciting. And yes, the star-studded conference will ignite your spiritual zeal. But what about the times in between? What about the silent routines of everyday life?
The goal is not to earn God’s favour, or merit some kind of reward. The goal is to grow in our experience and understanding of God’s love, His grace. We cannot do this on our own, but with the aid of the Holy Spirit who reveals the love of Christ to us. Nor can we do this by filling our lives up with busyness and noise. We need to find Him in the daily quiet and the (sometimes dry) words of Scripture.
For through these ruts, we come to experience God in a deep and lasting way, “the grooves of grace”.
This New Year, let’s commit to the quiet, and yes oft-boring disciplines that are not glamorous. Nor exciting. Let’s form our ruts, rather than looking to the next spiritual adrenaline fix.
And please, let’s not Instagram each time we drink coffee while doing so. After all,
“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:6