I wonder if there have ever been any kids to question not Santa’s existence, but the contract they’ve apparently been placed under? If they’re good (to Santa’s standards), they get gifts. If they’re bad, they get coal. But what if, my five-year-old mind asks, there was something better than Santa? Who says that I have to submit to Santa’s terms and conditions, especially when my grandpa gave me better gifts?
I think this whole concept of being good in order to receive gifts is a prime example of our American mindset: We like to set up contracts. In school, work, buying a car or a house, or even setting up a phone plan; contracts are used pretty much every where we go. Even looking at my Crossway ESV Study Bible I find a page indicating all the copyrights Crossway has held. Doesn’t matter that it’s a Bible; there’s still a contract.
I can’t knock them because they’re useful. In many ways, they’re for our benefit to have these contracts set up and outlined in the most specific terms possible – just so that every detail is covered and that nobody involved with the contract gets cheated. “Everybody wins” is the idea, more or less. What I do find problematic, though, is that this contractual way of thinking has become a framework in which we oftentimes approach God. “I will commit to…” we might say, but what we might be thinking after that is, “… insofar as it doesn’t cost me more than this.”
Our personal covenants with God become contracts with pages and pages of fine print that nobody ever wants to read. And yet it’s there because we tend to want a fallback plan. In case things get serious or out of hand, we want that fine print there to act as our loophole; our way out. “I will commit [amount of money] to God this year insofar as I make [amount of money].” I believe God finds such claims utterly ridiculous.
I say all of this because New Years Eve is right around the corner. It’s the time of year where many, many people (including myself) make “commitments” to various things for the entire year. And yet when it comes time to actually practice those things, we might carry them out, but only for a while. When I think back to previous resolutions, I realize that I only practiced those resolutions for maybe a month or two. Somewhere along the way, I found a loophole to the contract I made with myself and took a break. It was a break that lasted until the next resolution.
What if we cut that condition-making mindset? What if we set up our resolutions with a condition of no conditions? What would it look like if we were actually committed to a contract we made with God or with each other that we actually have to carry out regardless of circumstances? Well, that’s my goal for this year. And that’s my one condition for 2013’s resolution: Under no circumstances am I allowed to slack off or back out of the things I’ve included in my resolution.
Such a sole condition disables any loopholes that I in my lazy state might use just so that I don’t have to do the things that I’d said I’d do. I’m writing all of this in a public form just so that I’d have some degree of accountability. Granted, having someone in person to act as an accountability partner might be more effective, but be that is it may, there are certain commitments I’d like more people to know about:
1. Read more Scripture…
Compared to some people, it might seem like I read a lot of Scripture. But honestly, I haven’t read all that much in recent months. It needs to change. Charissa Lamb (Scott’s wife) talked about this a while back that if she doesn’t get some Scripture-reading in by 10am, she feels physically different. Having gone on reading streaks that ebb and flow at varying points, I’d have to say that I agree. It’s a subtle difference in how I feel, but it’s there.
2. Read more books…
Sort of an extension of reading more Scripture, but yet brings its own benefits. Sometimes we could use a healthy dose of a different perspective on different passages of Scripture. And oftentimes we find these different perspectives in various books that we might read in addition to Scripture. Beyond offering different perspectives, reading more books helps to improve vocabulary, which helps improve writing.
3. Journal more…
I originally had this as #2 on my list, but the more I think about it, I have more to write about if I’ve been reading more, like I said above. Not only does my vocabulary increase, but so does my word count. Last night I browsed through my electronic journal to see how many pages I’ve written within the last year. Sadly, the number is only 57. When I was a junior in college I was consistently on a pace of 220 pages per year. Granted, I’m no longer in college and therefore have less free time, but still, a writer needs to write.
4. Blog more…
In my first year of blogging, I had written over 100 posts. This post is #288 in a little over three years of blogging, which is less than a 100 posts per year. Blogging is different than journaling because it offers some public light into personal thoughts. Journaling is needed, too, obviously, because it offers a safe space to throw whatever is on my mind onto paper. But, like reading various books, I oftentimes need a different perspective on my thoughts.
My main reason for writing blogs, though, is to encourage whoever might stumble upon it. And given the various responses I’ve had (literally from all over the world) I’m finding that sometimes some people somewhere in the world like to read what I’ve written. So in a way, it’s a commitment I’m making to whoever might read these posts.
5. Give more…
Scott Lamb challenged us (Emmaus Life) with this question earlier this morning: How much do we actually give? In can be to each other, to the church, to random people in need – whoever; how much do we actually give? When I think of how much I’ve “tithed” within the last year, I realize that it’s probably been less than 1%. Sure, I’m working a wage job that pays me a little better than minimum and I have a ton of student loan debt, but I don’t want to hide behind that. I don’t want that to be a loophole for what I should be doing.
6. Apply to Western Seminary…
This was on my list a couple years ago, but I never committed to it. I got some brochures and some emails from a recruiter (Brian LePort, very awesome dude), but beyond that I didn’t do much. I didn’t apply. And yet now, since I’ve been away from church leadership, I’ve been more eager to go back to school and study Scripture with people who’ve studied it way more than I have. And it’d be cool to learn Greek and Hebrew.
7. Ask a girl out…
I’ve been single for a while and I might actually keep my room and car clean if there was a girl I was trying to impress. Also, I caught the garter at the last wedding I attended. That’s saying something, right?
All of the above is my resolution for 2013. And if I had to include a second condition to the condition of no conditions (paradox; not contradiction), it’d be that all of the above begins today. Writing out a New Year’s Resolution and waiting until New Years to start it is sort of like saying, “I’ll start this tomorrow.” Personally, I think if you’re led to change something about yourself, the sooner the better. You just might need all the inspiration and momentum you can get, so start it right away and don’t look back. It’s just like Bilbo when he left the Shire in The Hobbit; he didn’t have time to pack all his things and prepare for his journey. He just took off. And he took off running.
My hope with this is to have various people from varying parts of the U.S. and the world to sort of keep me committed to what I’ve laid out here. It’s like I was talking about earlier, if I am truly committed to all these things, I could use more watchful eyes to make sure I don’t fall back from these commitments. I don’t want to make the mistake of backing out of something I’ve committed to. It’s like Jesus said, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No,’” – Matthew 5:37. Or as James says, “But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no,” – 5:12.
Hope this helps as you consider your own resolutions. Feel free to comment on mine.