Same Guy, Different Year

I don’t know about you, but 2016 caught me off guard. The new year leapt from behind our Christmas tree in the early morning darkness to find me unprepared and unresolved, the same shuffling sinner as last year, stumbling to the kitchen, rubbing my eyes and searching for coffee.

And now I notice Lent and Easter creeping up. Ash Wednesday, February 10, is less than three weeks away. In past years I would have broken multiple resolutions by this point and would be tempted to use Lent to get back on the horse—fasting, for example, in order to lose weight rather than gain perspective.

Since I’ve made no resolutions, however, I’m headed toward Lent with no agenda other than the humbling realization that this year’s Jim is much the same as last year’s. And in recent weeks I’ve noticed two sins within myself that, in the past, I have failed to confront and that need to be uprooted.

The first, I learned just last weekend, is a form of vanity. I worry, overmuch, about what people think of me. Not simply in terms of appearance, though if I’m honest, that’s a part of it. I worry that I’m making a bad impression, that I’m being misunderstood, that I’m coming off as a judgmental know-it-all or a sentimental fool. As a result, I want to do good work, but not always for God’s sake or even for your sake. I want to do it for my sake, so I can feel good about me.

This is hard to admit, as it’s not a particularly manly sin. All of us have the need for affirmation—but I get affirmation from so many of you and from God in prayer. Worrying about every misstep and stewing over every sideways glance or offhand comment to the point that I forget the Father smiling down on me is an evil that must be uprooted.

The second, I fear, is more humbling than the first. Between my work life and our home life, I am as busy as I have ever been, and yet I feel God pulling me toward other things He wants me to do. And I’m resisting, because Lord, I don’t have time—something’s got to give!

Then it occurs to me: perhaps I’m that something. Perhaps God wants more of me.

And then the panicky flutter starts up in my chest, like a moth realizing too late that he’s inside the shade and that beautiful Light burns. I can’t do this, I think. I’ve got to get out of here!

Yes, you can, says God. Stay with me.

I realize one of two things must be true: either I don’t truly believe God can help me, or I don’t believe He will. The first I recognize as rubbish immediately: He’s God; He can do whatever He sets His mind to.

The second is equally rubbish: He is Love and always wills the good of His people. I know this. I do.

But do I trust Him?

I’ve got a long Lent ahead of me. May your sacrifices be fruitful, drawing you nearer to Christ!

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