“And the One who sat on the throne announced to His creation: ‘See, I am making all things new. Write what you hear and see, for these words are faithful and true. It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will see to it that the thirsty drink freely from the fountain of the water of life. To the victors will go this inheritance: I will be their God, and they will be My children.’” (Revelation 21.5-7; The Voice)
As Rochelle and I left a half-empty 24 Hour Fitness last Monday, I bemoaned the fact that next week the gym will be filled to overflowing with resolutions. This January there will be a guy or girl next to me on the elliptical machine dripping with sweat whose workout regiment will become a warm dish of hope melted by the end of February.
I suspect hope springs this time of year because most of us are willing to accept notions of newness. New habits. New ideas. New thoughts. If resolution season does anything for us, it reminds us that there are some things that we would prefer to have another way. So, we resolve! At the core, though, most of us don’t like change, or else we’d have made changes already. We motor from the tradition-laden seasons of Advent and Christmas and come crashing into the change of New Year’s resolutions. I like Christmas better myself, don’t you?
Resolutions aren’t inherently bad, though. Through the years I’ve actually had a few stick. Resolutions, however, aren’t enough to bring about the robust turnabout that humankind needs most desperately – the change from darkness to light (Acts 26.18). Real change is transformation.
When it comes to spiritual formation, transformation comes in different packaging than many people think. One of the great secrets of spiritual formation is that no one can make themselves more spiritual. What we do as disciples of Jesus is create space, make room, prepare the way, and orchestrate the conditions wherein God can make us into whatever He would have us become. Prayer, silence, solitude, and other spiritual practices (disciplines) do not make us more spiritual in and of themselves. Instead through participation in certain practices, we invite God to encounter us in formative ways that shape us spiritually. It is God’s work, through the power of the Holy Spirit, when we share in the practices that connected Jesus to God that changes us.
Even a quick perusal of the New Testament demonstrates that God is the One who changes us. Repeatedly, the Bible illustrates that God, the Alpha and Omega, makes everything new, including us. We are made new by the work of God more than the will of persons. Like cultivating a garden, humans simply create the conditions for growth while God produces the harvest.
As you reflect on the habits you choose to welcome in 2009, I encourage you to make room for the ancient spiritual disciplines. These are simple ways we open ourselves to God in order that He make us new.