Resolutions Gone Wrong

In the middle of preparing to return from Christmas vacation, I began to feel some trepidation. I love my job. I love my family. I love almost all the responsibilities I’ve been given (except maybe toilet cleaning and laundry). But for some reason I was not excited to enter back into the daily life that I’m used to.

I’m sure this is normal. Some people call it Christmas hangover. Some say it’s just the fear of not meeting whatever New Year’s Resolutions you’ve made. For me, it just felt blah. I wasn’t excited about anything. And I’m usually the one trying to get other people excited about new beginnings.

So after trying to psychologize the whole mess, I finally remembered to ask the Lord what was going on in my heart. I’m so used to being a go-getter that it troubled me to be less than excited about reentering my world. He led me to 1 Corinthians 13. Not initially encouraging. Have you read that passage? It’s really a downer if you’re looking at it from the angle of what you should be doing and are definitely failing at every day. It’s a good thing He was there with me to offer insight.

Everybody focuses on verses 4-8. When I backed up and read what Paul had to say about how nothing else matters but love, the Lord spoke. I thrive on innovation. I like to try new things. I get excited about my plans. But without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, my innovation and plans are clanging symbols. Without His love compelling my life and ministry, I might as well be doing nothing.

So this is where I think my little epiphany applies to all of us. You may have made New Year’s Resolutions. You may have big plans for 2015. Or you may just be riding the wave. Either way, His love – the love without which everything loses meaning – must be the driving force. I cannot love the way He loves. My love is not even love at all when compared with His. So my calling every day is to wake up and beg. Beg for the daily bread of love for Him, love for my family, love for others. I don’t have it in me. He has to do it. So all my well-laid plans will fall flat without it. All my hopes for the successes of this year will get completely buried without it.

And His ultimate plan for me is not the fulfillment of my goals – it’s the fulfillment of the Great Commission. That should be my ultimate goal every day. If it’s not, I better make some new Resolutions.

“You Hem Me In”

I have a love/hate relationship with Psalm 139. At times it provides such comfort, but once in awhile I find myself doubting the truth in David’s words. Right now I’m mulling over the phrase “You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me” (v. 5). What does it mean to be hemmed in?

I don’t have a strong grasp on sewing, but I’ve watched my mother sew before. When she makes a dress, the last section of sewing is the most difficult because she has to work from the inside out to sew the final pieces together. It’s tedious work from what I can tell, but the most essential step.

When David worships God for hemming him in behind and before, he’s painting a picture of God’s nearness and protection. The Father sets a barrier around us in order to keep our paths straight. He protects us from the mortal blows the Enemy would try to inflict. And all this is done from the inside out – the process of being hemmed must happen in the innermost places of our hearts before we can enjoy the freedom and beauty of it.

So I used to think that being hemmed in might be constricting. I believed that the Lord’s barrier around me would restrict the fun I wanted to have and the enjoyment of all the world has to offer. But I’m beginning to see the freedom of being hemmed in. When the Father does the tedious work of hemming us in, He’s making our hearts ready to rejoice in His commands so that we don’t want to wander from the path He chooses for us. The comfort of being wrapped up in His protection and promise is part of the fuel that pushes me to obey His commands. So how do I become hemmed in?

Praise the Lord that He sent Jesus to painstakingly hem us in! Because I belong to Christ, the work of the Holy Spirit is ever present in me. As I submit myself daily to His work in me, He teaches me to love His commands. He shows me the joy in obedience.

So many people I counsel are frustrated with God because they think He’s trying to restrict their enjoyment of life. Today I encourage us all to pray that our hearts would be surrendered to Him, just as we were the day He first invaded our hearts. In our surrender, we are trusting that His work in us is good – even if it doesn’t feel good. And obedience creates a desire for more obedience, which leads to joy in being hemmed in, behind and before.