Brad and I were discussing New Year’s resolutions the other day at dinner when Rowan burst out with his own declaration: “I have a resolution this year,” he announced with gusto. “I’m going to make my bed every day!”
He paused for a moment, chewing thoughtfully on a bite of baked potato. “Well, maybe every other day, because, you know, every day is so hard.”
We all laughed at that one. But later, Rowan’s comment about resolutions got me thinking, and I realized that I often approach God the same way. Sometimes I’m a halfway Christian.
Just as Rowan aspired to be good, and at the same time cut himself some slack by lowering the bar, I, too, often aim for a precarious balance between serving God and my own pursuit of happiness or convenience.
I love my neighbor when it’s easy – friendly chatting over the backyard fence. But I take a pass when it comes to loving my more difficult neighbors: the backstabbing colleague; the woman who blatantly cuts in front of me in the Hobby Lobby check-out line.
I serve the least of these when it fits my busy schedule, when it doesn’t feel too awkward or uncomfortable. But I’ll avert my gaze from the disheveled man holding the tattered “will work for food” sign at the stoplight outside SuperSaver.
I offer a kind word to the bank teller. But I’ll snap at my own child when he asks for his fourth sip of water at bedtime.
My point, of course, is that going halfway doesn’t work – in New Year’s resolutions or in faith.
I know I’ve quoted this passage here before, but what C.S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity about this topic is so fitting:
“The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self – all your wishes and precautions – to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call ‘ourselves,’ to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be ‘good.’ We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way – centered on money or pleasure or ambition – and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do.”
While Rowan can keep his half-way bed-making resolution, God, thankfully, won’t let us off the hook so easily.
Once we choose to follow him, he will not let us go. He will continue to work on us – shaping us, molding us, reminding us to go the distance, encouraging us to move beyond halfway.
He will cut off our brittle, rotten branches. He will prune our healthy limbs and nurture our tender fruit.
He will seep into the very core of our being, like stain soaking into oak.
He will wrap himself around us.
What about you? How does God help you strive beyond halfway?“Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” (John 15:4)
A repost from January 2010.