So here we are, four days into the new year. I’m sure that you or someone you know has made some “New Year’s resolutions,” statements on how you’re going to do things differently in 2011. Maybe you’ve even broken one or more of them already. Me, I don’t really do those anymore, for two reasons:
- My tendency is to constantly make resolutions for myself year-round, so setting aside one time of year for them would just be excessive.
- It doesn’t work all that well.
I look back at my resolutions for 2009 and just laugh — what with my son Sean’s Leigh’s disease, my mom’s death and my lack of willpower, none of them lasted to Labor Day. It’s just like the bit in James 4:13-15 — you can make all the plans you want, but if God has other plans for you, your to-do list is dust in the wind. So, no N.Y.R.s for this little black duck!
However, I’m not the type who can simply burrow through the days with no measurable long-term goal. I used to get those from my job(s), but with being Sean’s full-time caregiver/physical therapist/doctor wrangler, that’s simply not in the picture at present. And you can’t really set personal goals for someone else’s medical recovery, especially when said recovery is as off the charts as Sean’s is (and hopefully will continue to be). So I realized as 2010 wound down that I needed some projects, some things that could provide goals (however unimportant) to keep the goal-shooting-for part of my personality occupied and out of trouble.
And given the events of the last couple of years, I figured picking them myself was probably the wrong move. So I needed to talk to God and find out what He wanted me doing. Only I wasn’t quite prepared for what He had to say …
Now, to clarify that last paragraph:
- Yes, I really do believe that prayer is — and is supposed to be — two-way communication between God and man. I believe that God wants to speak to His people, and what God wants, He does. And I believe when someone asks Him a question, expecting an answer, He answers them, in whatever way will best get through to them. I believe this is the Biblical and traditional view of prayer, and honestly wonder why anyone would think otherwise.
- Yes, God does tend to tell me stuff in very linear fashion, words and sentences and all that. Sometimes He even tells me to write it down so I don’t get confused.
- No, I don’t believe hearing from God in this fashion makes me a “better Christian” (whatever that means) or “more spiritual” (ditto) or in any way better than anyone else. My honest opinion is that He does it that way with me because I’m so thick-headed, I’d miss it if He used any less direct method. If you need a jackhammer to do the job, no sense grabbing a spoon.
- No, I can’t tell you how I know it’s God speaking and not something I ate. I don’t always, and can’t explain how I do even when I’m totally sure. I have to have faith that when Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice” (John 10:27), He meant it.
Okay, end of disclaimers. So on New Year’s morning, I took some time before launching into my hectic Saturday schedule of watching old Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes on Netflix to ask God what projects, if any, he would like me to tackle this year aside from my obligations to family and elsewhere. I know enough to know that when you ask God an open-ended question like that, you’d better be ready for anything. And I thought I was.
And then this is what He gave me:
- Write — specifically, finish “Hearts and Souls” (the Iron Man fanfic I’ve been working on since last summer) and the follow-up vignettes I’ve had in mind. I need to work on it every day, as well as doing this blog when I have something to say, even if my thoughts on the subject aren’t fully developed. (This won’t mean fewer blog entries, I think; more likely it’ll mean more blog entries, and me feeling less guilty about the amount.)
- Read — science fiction in particular, with a goal of reducing the list of Hugo-, Nebula- and Locus-nominated novels I haven’t yet read from its current total of 290 or so to below 200 by the end of the year. (I’m a fast reader, so this is definitely possible — I blew through one and started two others already.)
- Clean up the office — including sorting all the photographs (our own plus the thousands I inherited from Mom), storing the dry/canned goods that we can use but don’t have room for in the kitchen, filing away documents, sorting (and sorting out) books, etc., etc., etc. If I had a picture of the office three days ago, you’d understand — it looked like we were still moving in, and we’ve been here almost seven years. It’s a little better now, but I’ve got a lot ahead of me, especially with the photos. Like “Hearts and Souls,” this is to be a daily activity; weekends especially, but also something I can do while listening to a podcast or audiobook on weekdays.
- Manage my Legends of Baseball fantasy team.
Now, if you’re like me, you look at that list (which I’m doing right now; it was one of those times He told me to write it down) and go, “… um … that’s it?” Because there was nothing particularly earth-shattering about any of it. Heck, with the exception of cleaning the office, these are the things I was doing already. Suddenly these are the big projects for the new year?!?
But there are two things that list points to for me. The first is that these are the things I need to be doing — instead of a lot of the other things I’ve been doing. In his song “Hope,” Mitch McVicker sang “every single day I spend/somewhere between one hour and ten/just letting my soul run around wild.” And I tend to do that too — reading this, that and the other; playing games; goofing off. The emphasis here is to focus my activity on fewer activities, ones just as fun as all the others but proven to be better for me in the long run.
The second is that there’s a clear charge here: to stay right where I am, because that’s where God wants me right now.
My Type-A personality has too often led me into tackling things that seem to me (and others) to be good ideas, and maybe are … but aren’t God’s will. The inevitable results of these well-intentioned efforts of mine have been failure. It’s been a slow process learning to screen out the suggestions (internal as well as external) of the “good,” and holding out for God’s “best.” I have not mastered it yet, either. But I’m gradually getting it, recognizing that if I am to fulfill my part in God’s plan, I need to do my part, not anyone else’s, and stick to God’s plan, not anyone else’s. And if that means skipping the logical “thing to do” and instead reading a Robert Silverberg novel, well, then I just need to buckle down and crack those covers open.
And my spiritual life? Well, I asked — and wrote down the response: Your spiritual life is less of a worry to Me than it is to you. Improve upon that statement, will you? In other words, “chillax, Ray, you’re in exactly the shape I want you in, in exactly the place you’re supposed to be — now just stay there and don’t do anything to screw it up, ‘kay?”
And so here I am in 2011, readin’, writin’ and sortin’, keeping my faith in God that I’m right where I’m supposed to be. And that when He needs me to do something else, He’ll say so. One could do worse.