Last year just a week before New Year’s Eve, I had made a list of twenty-two things I would do for the next year. I made a resolution, so to speak. I realize, though, as this year ends, I have not lived up to the twenty-two things on the list. I have not sung in the rain or even danced in it. I have not lived life on my own terms and told the world to shove it. And I definitely have not been quick to search for the potential in people. In fact, most of the time I’ve written people off and never thought they’d be able to change. Instead of loving people more, which was another item on the list of twenty-two, I’ve judged them more.
I call it my list of twenty-two because I don’t like the term “New Year’s resolution.” I think if I have enough problems that I’m forced to write them out, I should limit the time for change to one year. Changing my problems should be quick and efficient, but it shouldn’t end with the next year. The changes I make this next year should merely be more changes added onto the list from the previous year. I should be constantly pursuing those changes, especially if they’re character flaws.
I haven’t lived up to the major items on my list and I’m feeling a little regretful. I’m regretful that I didn’t take the time out of my day – even in the boring days of summer – to love that one person I have a problem showing love to. I’m regretful for those wasted opportunities to let God touch my heart if only I would have surrendered my pride. I’m regretful for the moments I had been given throughout the last year where I could have made somebody’s burden a little lighter, somebody’s pain a little less severe, or somebody’s disheartened spirits a little less discouraging. I could have done those things if I had lived up to my list of twenty-two.
It might be obvious, but I have a problem with letting my own mistakes go. It’s not that I mess up a lot that slows my walk with God; it’s because I dwell so much on how I messed up that slows me down. I don’t think the chains of sin enslave me as much as the chains of guilt do. For some stupid reason, I sometimes believe that a lot of what I’ve done is unforgiveable. I sometimes believe that not even God becoming man and taking up all the sins of humanity on a cross can forgive the things I’ve done. I’m not feeling this way now, but I have felt this way in the past and when I come across more things, like the things in this list, that I should have done but did not do, I have to be careful to not overlook the beauty of God’s grace.
This list of twenty-two was made to help me find ways of thriving in God’s freedom. If I love more towards others, I might be loved in return, but at the very least there will be peace in my heart. I won’t feel as hopeless as I have before. When failing to live out these twenty-two things, like failing to live out God’s commandments, I make life much harder on myself. No, my list of twenty-two isn’t in the Bible, but the intent of writing out a self-promise is that I will eventually fulfill my own promises. When I think about it this way, I have even failed my own promises, let alone the promises of God. And the question that’s been milling around my mind in the last couple of days has been: What’s it going to take? How much longer am I going to live my life without taking God’s promises seriously or even my own promises seriously? How much more of my life will I waste trying to decide if I want to live by Christ’s standards or by the standards of the world?
A professor by the name of Randy Pausch was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer several years ago. His doctor gave him a fighting chance and after about a year of treatment, they thought he defeated it. Several months later, though, his doctor gave Randy the worst news of his life: the cancer had metastasized into his liver. He had ten tumors growing in his liver and was given only months to live. And in those few months, he gave his “last lecture” against his wife’s desire. The lecture was so powerful and filled with so much inspiration and emotion, he was asked to write it into a book, which produced The Last Lecture, a national bestseller in weeks.
His book, likewise with his lecture, was about fulfilling the things you have dreamt about. What he realized was how many childhood dreams of his he had already fulfilled, but what I’ve realized is how many childhood dreams I haven’t fulfilled. Even though his dreams were fulfilled, he had his life cut incredibly short, which pressed him to give his last lecture and then write a book about it. He was given a window of opportunity to make one last feat, one last stand in this world, and he didn’t waste what short amount of life was given to him. The guilt over what I’ve done in the past goes out the window when I consider how much of my life has been wasted. Why was it wasted? Because I’ve been simply going through the motions. I made a list last year of twenty-two things intended to help me not waste my life, and yet I didn’t live them out.
Unlike Randy Pausch, I don’t have cancer – or at least not yet. I don’t have any known ailments to my health that would shorten my life. Now that can be a blessing and a curse, but the point is to live the life God wants me to live, to pursue the dreams He’s written in my soul, regardless of my health. It should be the very fact I haven’t been diagnosed with a fatal disease that compels me to live out God’s commandments, to exceed my list of twenty-two, and to play the role God has written for me. I shouldn’t simply sit back and enjoy how I’ve been blessed with a relatively healthy life; I should push forward to make the most of it.
My list of twenty-two will begin to consume my mind more and more as this year ends and another one appears on the horizon. I can’t stop that from happening. But what I can do is decide how I’ll react. Will I weep and wallow over how much I haven’t done or will I take all the things I haven’t done as motivation to do them in the next year? Will I let those undone things create guilt or inspiration? It’s a common tendency of mine whenever I make a list of things I want to do to revise it so it becomes a little easier to handle. For instance, when I take on a lot of credits, I usually back out and take a smaller, more manageable schedule. This method has had its benefits, but I discovered last winter term that I did much better with more credits on my plate than the terms where I only had the bare minimum. This year when I approach New Year’s Eve, my list will not be very different. In fact, all of the twenty-two items I put down last year will still be there for next year. What will change will be the number. I’ll look over the things I have and have not done this year and add to next year’s list, but not limiting the list to just next year. Remember, my view on New Year’s resolutions is they’re too limiting, so my list will be a list of more than twenty-two things I promise to do or to start doing to realign my life with what God wants for me. It won’t be just next year that I’ll need to do this; it’ll be the rest of my life.
I don’t want to waste my life. If I were to have the diagnosis of some kind of malignant cancer today, I would be pretty disappointed with the life I’ve lived. Instead of getting depressed over this fact, I must focus on the reality of my (so far) cancer-free life and make the most of it. God has given me this life and if I were to throw it all away because I want to be comfortable or lazy would dishonor Him.
All this talk of how I haven’t been living a life that glorifies God makes me incredibly ambitious and motivated. And the very first question that came to mind a moment ago when I was about to wrap this up was, “What do I do now?” There is a plan we must follow and although the specifics are different for each one of us, the plan doesn’t stray far from God’s commandments. If we start back at the Root, we’ll be able to grow much more efficiently.