Yes, I know I just posted something on New Year’s Resolutions. So here it is, just a few days later, and what? Have I added more resolutions? Or have I given up on the three I spoke of, oh so eloquently? I know that if I try hard enough and vow to continue, I’ll make progress toward my goal. Right?
No. The truth is simply that in so short a space of time I’ve been given a new understanding about my “noble” efforts. Those resolutions, useful as they might be, are incomplete because:
Unless the LORD build the house,
they labor in vain who build. . .
It is vain for you to rise early
and put off your rest at night,
To eat bread earned by hard toil—
all this God gives to his beloved in sleep. (Psalm 127: 1a-2)
As hard as we work at it, holiness is not up to us. It is not by our efforts that we become holy, but by grace, the free gift of God. Not that we do nothing. The point made by the Psalmist is that whatever our efforts, it is finally God who achieves the results, and not ourselves. Holiness is God’s territory.
Jesus’ parable in Mark (4:26-29) speaks of the same truth:
He said, “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit.”
I know of a few spiritual directors who tell their directees, “Don’t work so hard!!” What ever can they mean by that? Of course, I have to work hard! How else can I reach my goal?
Oh, that bold, stark, over confident, aggressive-looking letter, capital I! It stands all by itself, as I do when I think I‘m accomplishing so much all by myself when all along, it will be God causing the growth. Holiness is, after all, God’s turf.
Our responsibility consists in preparing the soil, accepting the seed, and harvesting the growth. The soil is our spirit, our heart, which we cultivate by prayer and loving deeds, feeding it persistently by habits of study, receptivity and trust. These nourish the seeds of faith. The time of harvest comes when we discover that some good things have grown within us. Then we’re enabled to spring into action, using those God-given gifts to share with others in a ministry especially suited to us. The little that we are capable of, we do, but then leave the rest to God.
I’m going to continue with my resolutions to practice Silence, Mindfulness, and Trust, but with a new perspective. It is God, not little i who guarantees the end results. Deo gratias!