The new year is here, and with it, the rise and fall of many resolutions: get healthy, volunteer, go on an adventure, buy less & save more.
On New Year's Eve, I sat in front of Jesus in the Eucharist and made my own list of resolutions. I carefully spent time thinking about experiences to enjoy, people to love, knowledge to gain, and faith to encounter. I could feel my heart race with excitement over the many possibilities of growth in the new year, but my enthusiasm was paired with hesitancy to actually write anything down because pen to paper means commitment, and unfortunately I have reneged on many commitments before. A part of me acknowledged that it almost felt easier and safer to not have any goals so that if I failed to accomplish them, it wouldn't aggravate me since they weren't in set in stone.
Another reason why I felt bogged down by commitment was because of the number of resolutions I created. I lessened my lengthy list down to seven but that still seemed excessive. Would I really be able to faithfully keep seven resolutions? Last year there were many dreams that I wanted to make a reality, other aspirations to achieve, but my only New Year's resolution in 2017 was to not purchase any clothing or make any unnecessary purchases for the entire year. That meant no Amazon splurges, no indulging in lipglosses that varied in shades only a slight percentage off of all the others, and no buying clothes because Lord knows that when I said I had nothing to wear, what I really meant was that I had too many options and I couldn't narrow it down. I was steadfast in my desire to live simply and to enjoy what I already owned and made it through 2017 without growing lax in my resolve; but that was ONE resolution. Why was I now looking at myself and my life like Chip and Joanna Gaines look at a house on Fixer Upper (strong bones, great character, but needs major improvements)?
The reality of my New Year's resolutions is that I want to be all and have all. I want to be this year where I had hoped to be last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. And yet, I fear commitment, not for commitment's sake, but for fear of failing. And if that wasn't enough, I have a long list of "self-improvements" that will take a lifetime to attain.
I kept praying about my life and my list and invited the Holy Spirit to reveal to me what my desires where really leading me to, and as always, the answer was right in front of me. My longing for health, love, ministerial success, community, and adventure were scattered desires for one thing: Jesus
In "The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality," Ronald Rolheiser uses Søren Kierkegaard's definition of a saint as "someone who can will the one thing." Though many are the saint's desires, passions, and eros, they are channeled into one life-giving good.
"Most of us are like Mother Theresa in that we want to will God and the poor. We do will them. The problem is we will everything else as well. Thus, we want to be a saint, but we also want to feel every sensation experienced by sinners; we want to be innocent and pure, but we also want to be experienced and taste all of life; we want to serve the poor and have a simple lifestyle, but we also want all the comforts of the rich; we want to have the depth afforded by solitude, but we also do not want to miss anything; we want to pray, but we also want to watch television, read, talk to friends, and go out. Small wonder life is often a trying enterprise and we are often tired and pathologically over extended."
The duplicity of my desires was causing uninvited panic My seven resolutions were a clear sign that I willed to clear obstacles that were distracting me from God, but at the same time, they themselves were obstacles. To be healthy, adventurous, financially comfortable, and saintly, I just needed to focus on one goal: God! I asked the Holy Spirit to lead me to one word that would guide me to Jesus in this new year, a word that encompassed all of my resolutions, a word that be both goal and method. And that word came loud and clear.
Discipline and disciple come from the same root word, the Latin "discipulus" which means pupil and the definition includes "control gained by enforcing obedience or order." To have discipline is to be a pupil of Jesus, also known as a disciple. And for me to be a disciple I must be obedient to His teaching and to His example. In doing this, I fulfill all of my resolutions and more.
When I surrender to God my idea of who I am and who I want to be, what I want to do, how I want to act, and where I want to go, He takes my passions and desires, sees them as good, and says, "you will do greater things than I" (John:14:12)! I
Even though the world and my passions pull me in a thousand different directions, I don't need to do or be anything except for the Lord's and I can do that by growing in discipline to learn how to listen for God's presence.
Word of the Year: Discipline
Scripture Reflection for the Year: Isaiah 43
Spiritual Companions of the Year: Chiara Luce Badano, Chiara Corbella, Gemma Galgani