For you created my inmost being;Psalm 139:13-14 (NIV)
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)
It’s that time of year when we make all kinds of resolutions about looking after ourselves better. Exercise more! Floss regularly! Eat more fresh food! Spend more time in prayer and meditation! But after a few weeks (days?) of good intentions, too often these resolutions fall by the wayside, and old habits come back into play.
Why does this happen so easily? Shouldn’t it be natural to want to spend time on ourselves, improving our health and our habits? And yet it’s often easier to let the focus drift back to other things, other people — more important, higher priority tasks.
Sometimes even a sense of guilt might creep in when we carve aside time for ourselves. Maybe you feel like that hour spent working out at the gym was too selfish. Or maybe you feel like the quiet time you spend with God isn’t productive enough. It often feels like there’s no room left for such a thing as quiet time in today’s fast-paced, time-is-money society. And even from a more spiritual point of view, it can feel strangely selfish — I mean, shouldn’t we be spending that time focusing externally, not internally? Ministering to others, out in the world helping people?
Perhaps, though, there is something to be said for placing a higher value on our own well-being. After all, my own mind, body, and soul is a part of the greater creation. Looking after myself well is doing God’s work in the place where, indeed, I have the most impact and influence. If I’m going to do any good at all, then right here is the place to start.
See, I am doing a new thing!Isaiah 43:19
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
It’s often said that God likes to interrupt our best-laid plans. That the Holy Spirit works not in the way we expect, but rather through a series of sacred interruptions. Disruptions that overturn our routines, our expectations, and our preconceived ideas.
Along with this idea comes the implication that we need to make sure we’re open to these interruptions. We need to ensure we’re not so wedded to our day-planners and task-lists that we say no to God when he comes knocking, just because he didn’t send a Google Calendar invitation.
And all this is true! But here’s something else that’s true: For there to be any sort of interruption, there must be something going on to interrupt. You see, I’ve come to realise it’s also possible for me to go too far in the other direction. In a kind of misguided desire to be more open to the Spirit’s promptings, I sometimes avoid fixed regimes, out of fear of becoming too tied down to any one thing at a particular moment. But the result ends up being an unfocused mind. Without enough discipline in my life, I can’t discern God’s voice apart from my own untethered thoughts.
We still need discipline and routine, only not to make an idol of it. When God comes crashing into our daily schedule, we need to be ready to lay it all to one side and follow Him without hesitation. But this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have such a schedule in the first place.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.John 1:1-5
2 He was in the beginning with God;
3 all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.
4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
We all need to begin somewhere.
Starting a new phase of life can be challenging and scary. Whether it’s a new job, a new relationship, or a new project of some kind, all too often we put off taking that first step. It’s so much easier to stay in the comfort of well-trodden paths, rather than risk branching out into the unknown. It feels a whole lot safer to play around in those fields where we know we can be mostly in control.
But sometimes, circumstances mean you can’t do things the way you’ve always done them anymore. Or maybe you’re hearing that still, small voice calling you out of our comfort zone—and you know that “safe” and “comfortable” aren’t going to cut it for much longer.
Whatever new thing it is that you’re beginning, you can be assured that God has been there first. God, who has been there since the beginning, has walked these unknown paths long before we have. And God will be right there alongside us as we step out in faith.
So go on: take that first step. And trust that you are not alone, and that the journey which follows will be worth it.