Do you make New Year’s resolutions?
I don’t make resolutions exactly, but I do find it helpful to set goals or intentions for the upcoming year. Sometimes I do this at the end of our summer vacation, sometimes on my birthday, sometimes at the turn of the New Year, sometimes all of the above, especially if my intentions need a kick start.
In recent years, I’ve chosen a theme, and each month I set some particular intentions around the theme. My theme for 2017 was Get Out There, because I can be shy or hesitant about putting myself out there, opening myself to the possibility of failure for the sake of trying to do something good. I wanted to be a little more bold about interactions with other people and open myself more to what God wants of me at this time in my life. So I got out there by applying for a study program at an Episcopal seminary—got it, and submitting a novel I’ve been working on to some agents—nothing. So far. I got out there by working on learning Spanish—made some progress. I got out there in a literal sense by trying to spend 30 minutes out of doors every day, no matter the weather—didn’t manage this every day. I got out there by being really open to God, by trying to be as honest as possible with God in my prayer. Not because God doesn’t already know me better than I know myself, but because by being honest and open, I grow closer to the God who knows me completely and loves me still. So I prayed about what it means to Get Out There, and, well, Joe and I found ourselves accepting a call to move to Africa.
You might interpret this as Be Careful What You Pray For, but if we are open to God, if we are intentional about wanting to spend the time God gives us to do something for God, God will put us to work. I know many of you can tell stories about how God has taken you up on your offer to be useful, to put yourself out there. I hope you get the occasion to share your witness to God’s power to put you to work for God with others, how when you have offered God’s gift of time back to God, good things have come from that offering.
God is the God of Time. The Bible describes time as a gift of God. From the creation story in which God makes the sun to rule over the day and the moon to rule over the night, to descriptions of time as we know it coming to an end, time is the creation of God. Time is a gift given to us by God to be used well. Not worried about. Not rushed through. Not wasted. Time is a blessing to be spent enjoying and caring for God’s creation, loving others, receiving love, serving others, using our gifts and opportunities in ways that bring God honor and glory and thereby bring us joy and meaning. Time is a gift of God for us to use while it’s entrusted to us.
We are works in progress; our growth takes time. St. Paul talks about not being “conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). In other words, use the gift of time, not to just go along with what the world offers as worthwhile, but to allow God’s Spirit to renew our minds, so we can learn what is God’s will for us.
God’s will for us is not some inscrutable mystery—God lets us know what is good and acceptable and perfect, what we can do for God, what kind of people we are to be for God, what habits are holy and helpful. And we are given the gift of time, not just to discern these things but to put them into practice, to work at them, to offer ourselves again and again for God’s purposes.
God is also the God of Time in that God reigns over time. God created it and God will bring time as we know it to an end. The Bible says that a day will come when creation itself will be transformed, including time, and there will be no more time for discernment.
So time takes on a preciousness in that sense for us too—not just precious because it was created by God, but precious because how we use it matters, and someday, time will not only stop for each of us in death, but time itself as we know it will come to an end.
My theme for 2019 is Open. It’s a great word for my intentions about communication, teaching, health, travel, and taking risks. In the Bible, hearts, gates, ears, eyes, jars of ointment, prison doors, the heavens–and more–get opened. Do you have a resolution, a goal, a theme for this next year? How will you use the precious gift of time? Joe and I would love to hear from you.