“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did what his father wanted?” (Matthew 21:28-31a)
The end of the year is almost upon us. When I was at home, it meant that the time for Dave Barry’s year in review was almost at hand. Often irreverent, sometimes poignant, almost always funny, it was a great way to recall the large and small events which were a part of our cultural experience. I’m about to start writing my annual report, in an attempt to take stock of our journey together in life and ministry.
Of course, with the coming of the end of the year, we also start to anticipate the beginning of the new. Traditionally, it’s been a time where we act on some of those things we took stock of in the looking back. New diets, more exercise are popular resolutions (somehow not coincidental to all of those occasions for holiday feasting, I suspect). For others, it might be quitting smoking or reading more. For some, it’s a resolve in some more serious matter.
Unfortunately, few of these resolutions last through the month. A friend of mine (who is far more disciplined than I) remarked that in January things get chaotic at the place where he goes to exercise, but that before too long, almost all of the new people disappear and folks get back to their regular workout routines.
One insight from this might be simply not to make resolutions we don’t intend to keep. They just make us feel worse in the end. And yet, some changes we really do need to make; how do we follow through and make progress instead of excuses built on good intentions? You may have noticed I have my own growing edges here; but I do know two important pieces to the puzzle:
Don’t go it alone. If it’s important, be accountable to someone: a friend, a spouse, a relative, someone you trust. Some people are highly self-motivated. We all need some of that. But there are times when we’ll be able to think of a million excuses not to do what we need to do, and that’s when we need someone who loves us enough to push us where we don’t want to go at the time. It’s also where a healthy relationship with God enables us to hear more clearly when we need encouragement or a change in our course, as well as providing strength and grace for the things God calls us to.
Don’t wait for the perfect time; if it’s the right thing to do, get started. The first son in Jesus’ parable could have assumed that since he’d made the wrong choice to start with, it was too late. It’s not. If we wait until a less busy time, or until all our ducks are in a row, or until everyone is on board, it probably won’t happen. Start by doing something. And if we keep doing that something while humbly listening for God’s next something instead of hitting a comfortable patch and patting ourselves on the back, we’ll find we go much farther than we imagined. And so it goes on through the miles and the years.
Blessings on the journey,