If you are anything like me, by February most of the resolutions I have made for the year have already been broken. Somehow no matter how much we try to be better, we fail. There is a reason for this.
You don’t decide in February to run the Comrades Marathon for one simple reason; the miles to accomplish the task will not be in your legs by the end of May. No amount of trying harder is going to help you. The only things that last are the changes we make a part of our daily patterns, which become habits in our lives. This doesn’t start with big changes but with small adjustments that change the underlying conditions which produce change in us. Perhaps a few that have shaped my transformational journey, will be of help to you.
The noise in the world in which we live seems to be ever increasing. I’m not talking about loudness but the ambient noise that is the underlying stress of our 21st century existence. My devotional life has completely morphed over the last few years in that when I come to God I now always get the sense that He is calling me to be quiet and to wait. It seems silence is a friend of God.
I need quiet in my soul before I can really communicate or connect with God. My schedule and the general “busyness” of my life are not helping me. I have been in many local Churches where the noise of the ‘motor’ that drives the program and organisation almost drowns out the still small voice that we so desperately need for our direction and sustenance.
Psalm 46:10 “”Be still, and know that I am God.” There has to be stillness before there is ‘knowing’. Take a few moments through your day – to still your soul.
When we talk of meditating and breathing – we sadly confuse this with drifting into eastern mysticism. But it is a biblical call through scripture – the psalms are full of encouragements to meditate (selah): to pause and ponder.
Some years ago I picked up a virus on my travels that affected my heart. My blood pressure became very erratic and one of the things I was encouraged to do was breathe in and out and focus my attention on the rhythm of the breathing and it would help stabilise my blood pressure. Thankfully after a year, God healed me from the virus but the lessons learnt were very important to me even now, many years later.
In focusing on my breathing I’m learning to wait on God; to slow down my world and gain a sense of order and rhythm in the inner world. I imagine breathing out the stress and concerns of my day and breathing in the life of God and feel it flooding through me as I breathe.
Our lives naturally tend to become progressively more complex without any effort on our part. Job challenges, busy schedules, investments or our children’s education are just some of the issues that take up much of our thought process.
I have made a simple decision that when faced with two choices I will always take the simplest one. Not the easiest one – but the one that leans to simplicity rather than further complicating my life. I was sitting with a man the other day who was faced with uprooting his family and moving to another city. His life was complicated no matter what decision he made, and my advice to him was simple. What will cause you to simplify your and your family’s lives? Pick that one.
Our hurried pace diminishes our capacity to love – we become blind to those around us – we stop doing spontaneous things and we become starved of ‘open space’ to dream, plan and truly enjoy our lives.
Most of our modern lives feel a little out of control. This lack of control can often make us feel at a loss; it is debilitating and makes the completion of even the simplest tasks difficult.
Karen and I have adopted a simple rule over the years: When life seems out of control – we bring order to a few things we do have control over. Order is empowering, even in small areas – it has a ‘kick back’ in that you feel you are taking back areas of your life that you have let slip and you feel a little less ‘out of control’.
Hopefully these few habits, if you put them into practice, will help give you a better year. Think in terms of ‘leaning’ – where does your life lean? Lean into the sacred, into the Godly disciplines discovered centuries ago. These will help you quiet your soul – it is there that transformation becomes possible.