I am not sure why we feel compelled to right our wrongs on the first day of the new year, but it is inevitable. We do it every year. We think for some reason if we promise ourselves on the first day of the new year to change a lifetime of behavioral formation, our lives will be better.
Last year, I resolved to become vegan, to walk or to run every day, to not cut my hair, to recycle as much as possible, and to be more focused spiritually. I figured by radically changing my life in several different areas, I could count on at least one resolution to last for the entire year.
I cut my hair sometime in June or July. My hair was black and fluffy. It was hot. It had to go.
I stopped being vegan sometime in October thanks to the book The Raw and the Cooked by Jim Harrison. Harrison reminded about how much I love food—all of it. The secret is in not being gluttonous. I didn’t learn that last bit form Harrison, who revels in his own modern day version of Rabelais’ carnivalesque.
Sometime in February or March I lost my spiritual focus, and stopped reading the Bible every day and taking some time for myself in the form of a Sabbath every week. My spirituality always seems to be the first to waver, though it should be the last. I really need to focus on this aspect of my life, because without this grounding I feel as if I am simply floating from idea to idea and never really settling on any of them.
If I could have remained tucked safely in the closet, suffering from the delusion that God makes people who they are only to condemn them to a life of celibacy or eternal damnation, I would be an ordained Methodist pastor right now. I still believe I have been called to minister in some capacity, and I am just going to be really honest right now: I only stopped pastoring because duality is not my forte. Living two lives is not for me. Some people can do it. I could not. I needed the freedom to be honest about who I am. I needed to be able to tell people that God loves them in ways we can’t understand.
I suppose I could become UCC or Disciples of Christ and I could still pastor. Maybe one day I will look into it. Maybe after I have been teaching English at some college for a while, I can find some time to seek ordination in a more liberal denomination. Maybe by then the church I love, the UMC, will truly become the church they claim to be now: “open hearts, open minds and open doors.”
People have asked me why I don’t just become Unitarian because I could easily lead a UU congregation. My answer has to be that my spiritual life is too much about Jesus. By that I don’t mean that I could ever be too much about Jesus, but church is about Jesus for me. I think the UUs are great and I applaud their interaction with politics and their acceptance of all beliefs, but I can’t imagine church without the Eucharist. I need Jesus and his grace and his birth, death, and resurrection in my theology. I need the Apostle’s Creed. I need to meet with other people who believe some of the same things, who also rely on Jesus for salvation. Conversely, I relish the time I spend with people who don’t believe the same things, but I can do that in academics. I don’t need church to be that place; in fact, I spend much of my life in academics with people whose beliefs are vastly different from my own.
I have stayed with my commitment to recycle or reuse or whatever as much as possible. For the second year in a row my family exchanged only homemade Christmas gifts. That one simple action removes so much of the pressure from the holiday season. I don’t feel compelled to buy the biggest item I can in order to impress some member of my family who really couldn’t care less or who already has more than they need any way. Hell, most Americans already have more than we need. I gave my family recycled beer box Christmas ornaments.
Similarly, I have stayed with my commitment to walk or run every day. I was running pretty consistently, training for the Indy-Mini for May, but then I got that weird mono-ish disease I wrote about the other day and had to quit running for a month or so, but I kept walking. I walk at least three miles a day, I think. I am going to run today once it warms up a bit.
Though I think it is strange to make these promises every year. I think it is good to re-evaluate our lives. I do it pretty constantly, in case you haven’t noticed by my blog. And, yes, I do make resolutions even though they don’t last.
Here are my goals for this year:
Writing: I hope to write at least five days a week. I may not write every day (five times a week) on this blog, but I will write every day in some form. Whether I am writing for class or for pleasure, I will write consistently five times a week or more.Comps: I will pass my comps in August and have a good start on my dissertation by December of 2009. I hope to have it finished so I can graduate by December 0f 2010. I would love it if I could get it done by July of 2010.
Peanut Butter and Jelly: I am going to try to eat peanut butter (or soy peanut butter) and jelly every day for lunch. I suppose I could eat soup with it or something else like pretzels or whatnot, but for the most part I would like my lunch to consist of PBJ. There is no reason for this. I do love PBJ, though.
Walking and Running: I will keep up this portion of my life. I will jog at least half of the Indy-Mini.Jesus: Something needs to happen here, but I am not sure what it will look like. I am hoping my faith will continue to grow, but I know that won’t happen without work. Sometimes I feel like I neglect this, the most important part of my life, in favor of other, lesser pursuits. I struggle with my ministry. I struggle with my lack of grace for some people.I struggle with knowing that God loves me and can use despite what most churches preach from their pulpits.
This may sound strange, but I saw the movie Yes Man yesterday and it made an oddly unexpected impact on me: it made me think theologically?!? What if Christians said yes to everything they feel God leading them to do? As I type this I am surrounded on all sides by Mormons—they send several groups of guys to BSU every year for their two years of mission work—so I am thinking about what it would look like if all churches were as diligent as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints? I am thinking about how our lives would change if we all said yes to God on a consistent basis.
What is my mission? How can I serve others? I guess these are things I will be thinking about throughout this new year. What does it look like to live my faith, my grace, God’s love? What does livign a Christ-filled like look like given someone’s sexuality, academic pursuits, worldly constraints, and daily life? I suppose these are the questions that consume me always. I am never sure if I am answering them to the best of my ability, but I try. I think God honors our persistence.
One of the Mormons, who is looking at a computer near me, is showing his fellow missionary some pictures.
“Look at his shoes. Look at my brother’s shoes.”
“Yeah. They’re sweet.”
“He always has pimpin’ kicks. My brother. How does he always find such pimpin’ kicks?”
I will never forget this moment. Have you ever heard a Mormon covet his brother’s pimpin’ kicks? I doubt they look like this:
“open hearts, open minds and open doors.”
Have you considered that you are doing the Lord’s work and ministering in the fashion He fucking wants you to? Seriously. Why does it have to be ministering to a flock? 3/4ths of whom don’t even do anything remotely close to what you wish for them to do. (Personal experience talking there.)
Did you ever think that maybe you are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing? Going to school. Teaching. Being a good example to your goddaughter. Living the best life you can.
Your quote is exactly what effective teachers do too. Have you considered that you minister to students needs every fucking day you teach? They need more teachers who give a shit like you and your mom and my wife and me. That is no different than any ministering up at a puplit. What you teach the kids becomes part of them whether you realize it or not. You affect them because you see them one-on-one and in a classroom over a course of a semester. You are personal with them. They seek your guidance. And you prepare them–in some small way–to be better people.
You do more good and do what you think is the Lord’s work when you get in the trenches with those kids than when you are up on a pulpit preaching. So keep it up and stop worrying so damned much about whether you are living up to Christ’s ways. Who the fuck can?
In terms of your faith and the direction you want to go in life, just trust your instincts. I believe that listening to our instincts is like listening to God speak from within us.
By the way, we share a similar resolution in terms of writing. Please ask me periodically if I have written that day, and please kick my ass if I tell you no.