Consistency Pays Off
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
This year I have seen incredible physical changes. Most weeks I have exercised between three and five days, focusing entirely on bodyweight exercises. While working out I've often wondered what else I could achieve if only I was so consistent in other things. The physical changes would be even more dramatic if I consistently ate healthy, sure. But more than that, what if I could study, or write, or pursue friendships with the same concentrated effort? Still, to be in my early 30's and have the best muscle definition of my life and more energy than I know what to do with is something that greatly pleases me.
One other area where I did show some consistency was in writing my 12 part blog series on Story and Jesus. I am tremendously thankful for the people who encouraged me on that journey, the result of which some have said is my magnum opus. Writing and completing that meditation on Jesus has changed my life, and I hope touched the lives of others. In time, I hope to expand on those thoughts and write an entire book.
I've also learned the value of ritual. When I write, I set out my diecast Thor figure, with his stern glare, to remind to focus and finish what I've started. I also light a mahogany candle, the scent of which signals my brain that now is a time to create. While I wish that I had a set time every day to write, placing Thor and lighting the scented candle help me find that creative space whenever time allows.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit
Looking back on everything I learned while writing about Jesus this year, the thing that struck me most is the story of Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus. The Gospel of John tells us, "Jesus wept." There's been some debate as to why, but in the context of the story it seems obvious to me. Jesus cried because his friends were crying. He understood what was going on, but they didn't. He knew that Lazarus was going to come forth just as soon as the stone was moved and he could speak the words, but they didn't. And even though he knew the outcome, it still pained him to see them suffering.
God doesn't change. My heart has been broken multiple times this year, and I don't know why God let that happen. I don't know God's plan, or what might be on the horizon. God doesn't owe me an immediate explanation and I'm at peace with that. My peace comes in knowing that the same God who wept at the tomb of Lazarus is weeping with me when I'm hurting and things just don't make sense. And I know that as long as I seek Him, all things will work together for good.
It's Not About the Immediate Outcome
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
This year I have spent more hours in prayer than several other years combined. I don't say that to brag, but only to stress how much I need God in my life. Only God can change hearts, and as much time as I have prayed for him to change others', I've spent more time begging him to change mine. While seeking his will, I have had to do things that frighten me, that stretch me. More often than not, the outcome has been neither what I wanted nor expected. But I keep going. Paul talks about the good works that we are to walk in, but he doesn't say a thing about the results. Sometimes, we do what is right because of the doing.
I am proud. I am selfish. And I am prone to self-pity. So when I don't get what I want, I'm learning to see it as an opportunity for my faith to grow. God doesn't bargain with us, and the Bible isn't a recipe book. We can't do all the right things for a guaranteed result. His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. All we can do is trust in the Lord with all our hearts, and not depend on our own understanding. In all our ways we are to acknowledge Him, and He will direct our paths. Where we end up is entirely up to Him.
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.
2 Thessalonians 3:16
With everything that has happened to me over the last twelve months, I can honestly say that 2016 has been a transformative year. I am not the same man I was last December, physically, mentally, or spiritually. I am tremendously thankful for the people God has brought into my life this year (or re-brought into my life), who have challenged me to become a better man. I am also indebted to those few, close friends who have allowed me to lean on them when things have become nearly unbearable. You know who you are.
Looking ahead to 2017, I don't expect things to change, for the challenges to cease. I only expect more of the same, perhaps in greater amounts. All of these challenges, I believe, have simply been preparation for more changes to come. Life may not get any easier. But in the end, I'm just trying to be the man God wants me to be, and it's all for His glory.