OK. So you had a tough year.
Me too. This is where we all let out a collective, "Wah wah wah."
I feel better now, and I hope you do too.
I know I am normally much more depressed, and depressing, than this, but I have just finished making my New Year's resolutions. I had no plans to make any resolutions until I found myself giving advice on a friend's Facebook post this morning.
I'm not one of those people who comment on everything that moves, but sometimes a post just cries out to me, begging for my unique reply.
My art school alumni friends are extra special to me, because they represent those halcyon days when our hair cascaded lush and thick over our shoulders, when joy and sorrow came and went of its own accord and we counted it all joy. Those days are where my novel "Corners" is set, the Shelley years, the years of possibility and New Year's resolutions (see my '11 blogposts starting with the month of April).
So one of my art school friends had pulled on his sad pants this morning, as I so often do. In fact, I had already done the same myself today, when I saw his post. It's gonna be a bad year, I can tell already, said he. No different from last year. I want a refund.
"You're just stuck in the border crossing," I said. "Give it time."
Say what? No sooner had I pressed the button on this nugget of wisdom than I had to ask myself, what the heck did I mean by that?
So I got in the shower. And I thought, and I thought, and I thought. And I arrived at the conclusion, this advice was meant for me, my own self, most of all.
I pondered the border crossing metaphor, as the water tattooed my skin, whoosh whoosh, thrum thrum. If you think about it, a border crossing requires a toll. Dollars and cents, or feats of strength, or acts of courage, if you're waxing metaphorical. You don't just get to cross over scot free.
So since we were waxing metaphorical, I decided the toll was two coins, and the coins were feats of strength and acts of courage.
The feat of strength would involve the act of correcting one obvious error in the way I think every day. The act of courage would be following through on at least one behavioral change that would naturally flow from that correction.
Conclusions such as these can only be drawn in the shower.
So how in the world did I get from here to there, other than through the steady drilling of hot water?
I have absolutely no idea. Nor do I have the slightest clue as to how I will begin to identify which thought error I must correct, let alone the behavioral change that will follow.
This is where faith comes in. And here comes the gift that comes with it.
"Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is." Romans 12:2.
Now, as a believing Christian, I have no doubt that God the Father both commands and comprises the scintillating force field which generates, animates, and maintains the construct of all spiritual, intellectual, and physical existence. I have no doubt that in the smallness of our individual minds we can only conceive Him as what Nobel Prize winning physicist Max Planck describes as "the Great Mind which is the matrix of all matter." And I have no doubt that the Holy Ghost of Christ breathes His wholeness into the sub-atomic fabric of our personal beings as we allow it, transforming us if we don't cry uncle.
In a way, for me, this is almost not faith, but just my experience.
My faith and my experience tell me that He will continue to transform my mind only as I continue to ask Him to. I don't know how He does this. I only know that He promises to do it, and I watch Him do it day by day as I allow Him to do it.
He does it by leaving me small gifts in places where, in my ham-handed awkwardness, I can find them. Gifts like the Facebook posts of friends; gifts like life experiences that change the everyday fabric of my existence, even when I don't want them to. Gifts that drive me to stand in the shower for great lengths of time, pondering whatever metaphor He has decided to show me today for a guidepost.
As a created thing, I am physical and weak - selfish, greedy, and all of that kind of stuff. Prone to tantrums. Prone to wanting my way. Guideposts, I need. It's a good day if I don't ignore them.
The twelfth chapter of Romans - the same chapter that prescribes being transformed through the renewing of my mind - tells me what to do to make the transforming happen, if I quiet my mind long enough to listen.
Do not think more highly of myself than I ought, but think of myself with sober judgment. Serve in accordance with my gifts, not gifts I wish I had but don't. Let others serve in accordance with theirs.
Honor one another - this crowd I've been given to live in and travel this world with - above myself.
Be joyful in hope; patient in affliction - underline that; faithful in prayer.
If I did even ONE of these things, it would surely begin the process of transforming my mind.
The feat of strength is beginning. The act of courage is continuing. He will do the rest. The rest is all faith, and Him.
So here is my New Year's resolution: Since I have no strength but to take a single step, I will take just one: to watch my thoughts, and reflect on the criteria above. Then I will give Him my mind to transform, minute by minute, His way.
He will do the rest. At least, that is, as much as I will let Him, and no more than I can stand.
And I will try my best not to cry uncle any more than I absolutely have to.