“Are you making New Year’s resolutions? If so, you have my admiration. It only takes a little bit of discomfort or stress for me to forget my resolution. I struggle with follow through. If I resolve to exercise more, one tired day weakens my will and outlook. I find myself sitting on the couch with my cat. If I haven’t meal prepped, one busy day and I’m getting fast food take out. Why do I do this to myself? I wonder: Is it that I don’t really want a better quality of life for my body, including strength and energy? Or is it just a momentary lapse of vision? I’m not alone in questioning my motive, vision, and desire. The Apostle Paul dealt with these quandaries: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Romans 7:15.
The early Methodists employed a rhythm of prayerful self-reflection and accountability with their small group. John Wesley, at the end of his day, would go through a list asking himself whether he committed any sins that day. Those early people called Methodists were rigorous in self-examination. The rhythms of spiritual life meant that they did so daily, weekly, and of course annually at the Covenant Renewal service.
Some of you participated in the recent Wesleyan Covenant Renewal service. It’s quite thorough and gets to the core of things. Perhaps one particular line of it is revealing folks like Paul and myself as we struggle with not doing the things we should: “God requires that you shall put away all your idols”.
Though we may live in an increasingly secular society, idolatry is plentiful. The greatest idol is that of the self. How often do we put our comfort and desires above God and God’s Kingdom? When we don’t see the “big picture” God gives us, it’s human nature to move God off the pedestal to put our own idol up there.
There’s another flip side to the idolatry of self. Sometimes being a “martyr” is also idolatry. Perhaps you do too much stuff and taking care of yourself is secondary. Or, like me, you’re really good at beating yourself up and believing those negative thoughts in your head. This can be really hard for some of us: do you spend time, often in the silence and the quiet, in the presence of God? God desires a relationship with you so much. Sitting in God’s presence daily allows God to remove the idolatry in your life: the idols named “not good enough”, “lack of compassion toward yourself”, “being too much or too little”; etc.
It may seem that I’m being contradictory. Really, it’s a matter of knowing where we are as created beings in the order of things. God gives humans the Imago Dei, meaning we are created in God’s image. Yet it’s important to remember we are not God. At the same time, demeaning oneself could be a dismissal of the Imago Dei. When we maintain a relationship with the Creator,
we are better able to keep God as God and not put something else where God should be.
Having God first in your life enables you to love yourself and love others. God’s grace can mold into more of the uniqueness of who you are, in ways that you aren’t even aware of yet. This requires continual re-orientation toward God and making space for love to grow in and through you.
These next few months I’m going to encourage us in reflection and spiritual practice. We will give intentional space for the Holy Spirit to move in us and through us. She can give us new energy, both individually and as a church. She will increase our vision to where God is moving in our community, and lead us there.
If you are reading this, it means that you are still breathing. God still intends to use you as a vessel for God’s love. God still desires to commune with you. As we begin 2020, I echo the question Mary Oliver, the poet, asks: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Centralia First United Methodist Church 506 S Washington Ave 98531 360-736-7311