Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Problem with Resolutions

I don't usually make new years resolutions or if I do, it's usually something tongue in cheek. But this year, forces just so happened to coincide in a way that recently I've resolved that in this next year, I want to try to help people.

I don't tell you this so you'll know what a super swell gal I am. If I were, I wouldn't need this resolution. I need this resolution because I'm a pretty rotten, selfish person a lot of the time. I can have tendencies of the scrooge, of the agoraphobic, of the self-interested.

But in the last several months, Mike and I have had a chance to help several people in small ways. It struck us afterward how easy it really is to be a blessing to other people. Even small actions to you can make a big difference to someone else. And these experiences left me saying, "Thanks, God, I'd like to do that more."

And yet, here I am, January 6th, and already feeling burnt out.

This could have a great deal to do with the fact that I am laying here, sleepless, for the third night in a row. One shouldn't put too much stock in thoughts conjured at 4 am. This could be because I have the stress threshold of a squirrel. This could also have to do with the fact that we went to a dinner last night for the small group leaders at our church which left me feeling burdened rather than refreshed. (Due to no one's fault other than my own tail-spinning, burdensome thoughts.)

All this has reminded me of the problem with resolutions: They are inherently reliant on our own strength to accomplish a task. Most people don't say, "I'm going to seek God and his help to allow me to eat healthy and make good life choices." They usually say, "I'm going to lose weight."

Even if we do begin by seeking God with a resolution, such as me asking God to help me help others more, how easy is it for us to pick up that burden and carry it alone? I make it my own responsibility, my own burden, my own to-do list.

I realize that I need to dedicate...and rededicate...and rededicate my activities to God.

There are many small ways in which Mike and I serve others that we sometimes take for granted. We lead a small group, I do nursery at church and Mike serves as a deacon, we watch other people's children when they need, etc. etc. (And, of course, I help a little person survive every day of her life.) Not exactly Nobel Peace Prize stuff. But I realize that when I take the small things for granted - as obligations almost - rather than dedicating them to God, they leave me feeling worn out and empty and not refreshed. And then when I resolve to help others more, my house of cards collapses.

Before I can have any resolution, I need to first have my relationship with God in working order. Namely, that I seek God, receive strength and refreshment from him, and then offer myself to him as a servant to help others how he would like. Instead of being on serving auto-pilot and then seeking to heap more onto that plate, I want to have God as my pilot and allow helping others to flow naturally out of that (which it always does). 

It's also helpful for me to remember and repeat Scriptures that talk about helping others: be hospitable, love one another, bear one another's burdens. They remind me that this is what it's all about. For centuries, Christians have been helping one another and other people as an outpouring of the love that God showed them in Christ. It's not an obligation, it's a wellspring. 

So, like I said, I don't say all this to make you think I'm such a helpful person. I'm not. I say it because perhaps someone out there is feeling the same way and can say, "Amen!" and be themselves refreshed.

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