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Making New Year's Resolutions?

Ordinarily, about this time of year, I make several resolutions for the new year. You know, the typical stuff: to lose the spare tire above my belt line; to be a better husband/father/pastor/writer/preacher/teacher/brother/friend; to spend less and save more; to exercise more/eat and drink less.

But this December, a funny thing happened on my way to making my resolutions: I decided to pray about it.

When I asked God, in prayer, what I should resolve, what I heard in response surprised me. (Although it shouldn’t have surprised me, because it’s something I’ve heard God telling me many times over the years -- a consistent message.)

It’s this:

“Lighten up a little, will ya, John?”

How’s that for a New Year’s resolution -- to lighten up a little!?

At first, that resolution might sound self-serving or even reckless, as if I’m giving myself permission to be irresponsible, lazy, or uncaring. Thinking of “lighten up” as an excuse for hedonism would take you in that direction.

But if you think of “lighten up” as “don’t take yourself -- your SELF -- so seriously” then it takes on a whole new meaning. It can lead to humility.

True humility, as C.S. Lewis points out, is not “thinking less of yourself.”

True humility is “thinking of yourself less.”

And isn’t that a major problem with most resolutions, whether we make them at New Year’s or Lent? They tend to make us think about our selves -- our goals, our bodies, our habits, our, our, our, my, my, my, me, me, me…

But if we think of “lighten up,” as “don’t take yourself so danged seriously,” or “let go and let God,” that would take us away from that kind of self-centeredness toward God-centeredness.

“Lighten up” in that sense could be thought of as “trust.” As following Jesus’ oft-forgotten commands of “Do not worry,” and “Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.”

Thinking of “lighten up” in that sense means we’d be doing less resolving and more relying.

It’s interesting, isn’t it: the two things that Jesus describes as most likely to choke or suffocate the Word of God bearing fruit in our lives are “the cares of the world” -- in other words, anxiety -- worry -- which is a lack of trust in God.

But what happens when we trust, when we somehow rise to the occasion and trust, really trust in God?

What happens is that God brings gifts into our lives -- things like affection, exuberance, serenity, stick-to-it-iveness, compassion, loyalty, energy, and perseverance. And these things come NOT from our resolving to try harder and work more, but effortlessly, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard. (See Galatians 5, The Message.)

In other words, when we lighten up a bit, God releases blessings into our lives, our burdens are lifted, and we’re lightened up a bit!

That’d make a pretty good 2011, wouldn’t it?


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