I read the Gospels, I hear them preached, and tap, tap, tap, go my jubilant feet.
The Gospels tell me lovely things I wanted to believe but feared were not true; that fellow Christians often suggested were not true, by their deeds, if not their words; and that our world definitely believes are not true. I read the Gospels and sense everything sad coming untrue, as Sam Gamgee exclaims in his delight.
What only fools gather and heap into barns? And see here: He says, it’s safe to forgive and bless even our pesky enemies, for he has our affairs in hand. And–look, he says prayer can move mountains, lame feet, dead bodies, anything… And look, I am commanded not to worry, but to live free as a bird–commanded, I tell you.
Tap, tap, tap, my toes beat at the Gospel’s jazz rhythm of hope.
“Oh yes!” I resolve as Rilke did when faced with the sheer beauty of the Archaic Torso of Apollo, “I will revise my life.”
I have decided to follow Jesus, my heart sings. I will forever live in the waterfall, the force field of God’s power.
* * *
And then, I go out into the world, where not everyone in the stands is a cheerleader and I am sometimes cheated; where my prayers are not instantly answered and my words are plagiarized.
The resolve to seek comfort and joy in the filling of the Holy Spirit? Well, it becomes chocolate and the Holy Spirit. And 10,000 pedometer steps, for my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, well…
And keeping the house orderly for God is not a God of disorder but of peace…Well. And waking very early in the morning, while it is still dark to spend time with my heavenly Father. Well…
Oh, I had wanted to speak words which give energy and life, but I hear myself speaking critical words which sap resolve, words which stem from tiredness and frustration, and I am filled with shame.
Oh, wretched woman that I am, who will rescue me from this body of death?
* * *
Jesus Christ will, oh yes, he will, through multiple means of grace.
And here is one, suggested by the prophet Habbakuk, 2600 years ago. I will write down the vision and make it plain that I may run when I read it…
What I resolved when I was on fire on the mountain-top, I will re-read in the damp-squibby valley.
I have a sheet of “epiphanies and resolutions” in my prayer journal. I resolutely pray through each desire of my heart, a page or so a day, and when I come to that page, I resolve again.
And I resume revising my life.
* * *
In the long run, failure does not matter. Getting side-tracked doesn’t matter. All that matters is beginning again. And again. The simple glory of persisting.
Yes, I will eat more veggies and walk more because my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and I want to keep it fit and strong. Yes, I will run an orderly house for the sake of my own mental health and happiness and for the peace of its inhabitants. Yes, “there is nothing but love,”–so help me God, I will remember that “all is small save love, for love is all in all.” Yes, I will wake early. And writing, oh yes, writing! I will write faithfully as a bird sings, for that is what I’ve been created to do.
“The essential thing in heaven and in earth is that there should be long obedience in the same direction. There thereby results, and has always resulted something which has made life worth living: virtue, art, music, dancing, reason, spirituality– anything whatever that is transfiguring, refined, foolish, or divine,” Nietzche wrote in Beyond Good and Evil.
“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours,” Thoreau observed.
And I read my resolves, and I re-resolve, and by persisting with the help of invisible friends—the Lord Jesus himself; God my Father; the Holy Spirit my Comforter; and the protective angelic hosts sent at my prayers — I will more than conquer those invisible enemies of my soul, the birds of distraction, the sun of discouragement, the thorns of hassles and the temptation to earn more than necessary.
And, God willing, my heart through constant amendments with the sun of grace, the water of the word and the compost of Christian community will become good soil, in which those beautiful seeds of the gospel, seeds of mercy, kindness, gentleness and love will be fruitful–ever so fruitful.
The first version of this appeared on Addie Zierman’s beautiful blog. Thank you, Addie.