My New Year’s Resolution
Wait, what? It’s the middle of May! Why bring up new Year’s Resolutions?
We’re almost halfway through the year, and by the grace of God, I’ve been keeping mine! And let me tell you, I couldn’t have picked a harder year to do it.
What was my resolution? Just this: Don’t discuss or debate politics with anyone. I’ve had a number of people ask me, “why on earth would you want to do that?” My response, “Why not?” So far, this has been an eye-opening and liberating experience. But before I go into it, let me share my secret to having kept it this far.
This is actually the first year I’ve even made a New Year’s Resolution, for two reasons. #1, many years, I couldn’t think of a good resolution to make, and #2, I was never comfortable with trying to do it in my own power. So what led me to make one this year? It actually started back in November.
As many of you know, I’ve been recovering from a traumatic brain injury that took away many of my social skills. Slowly, I’ve been gaining back lost ground, but this past November, I realized I had become complacent. I had taken the attitude of “when I get better, I get better.” In other words, I was playing the victim.
Then I heard a message by John Paul Jackson about “the dark night of the soul.” For those of you who don’t know what that is, the dark night of the soul is a period of time that God takes us through in order to purify us and make us more like Him. And, as John Paul said, the length of the dark night of the soul is dependent on how willing we are to lay down our own selfish will and pride.
At this point in my recovery, I had reached the maturity level of about a 17-year-old. In fact, in many areas, I had been stuck there for a good year. I decided that enough was enough, and I asked God to turn up the heat. Socially, I wanted to be my own age by the New Year.
God answered. The next two months were filled with some of the hardest days since the injury, but by His grace, I met my goal.
New Year’s Eve, I looked back over the past two months, and the optimist in me said, “If I could make it to 19 in two months, I want to make it to 20 by my birthday – emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and socially.” That literally meant regaining one to eight years in four months.
Perhaps my two biggest hurdles were my tenancy to be over-emotional, and my unrestrained eagerness to broadcast my opinion. I believe that God spoke to me that New Year’s Eve. “I want you to make a resolution not to discuss politics with ANYONE for the entire year. You can listen, but you are not allowed to speak your own opinion.”
I accepted the challenge, but not in my own power. I knew that, alone, I’d never be able to stick with it. I asked God to help me hold my tongue and just listen. I knew full well that two weeks later, I’d be helping a church friend take down an elderly lady’s Christmas lights, and I knew my friend was intensely political. He and I had differences of opinion on many fronts, but we often enjoyed debating the finer points of our favored policies and candidates. Neither one of us minded that we disagreed.
But this time, as per my resolution, I just listened. His platform was still the same, his arguments still the same, and my opinions were still the same. But I listened. About half an hour into the job, we wound up discussing business instead, only this time, something was different in me. I was less interested in sharing my opinion on a matter I was free to discuss, and more interested in asking questions and listening to his answers.
It wasn’t until about a month into the resolution that I realized the ironic timing of my resolution. This was election year! In fact, it was my first presidential election, and I had strong opinions about all the candidates and their platform points. Both the news feeds and my Facebook feed were filled with political material. February and March were two very difficult months for me, especially as I listened to some of my friends advocating things that I believed to be wrong.
Towards the middle of April, my resolution still in tact, I realized that this had been one of the best difficult choices I had ever made. I wasn’t just holding my tongue about politics. I felt completely at peace with leaving almost any debatable topic alone. I was better at truly listening to people, instead of always anticipating when I could interject my own thoughts.
I had also learned how to share facts, devoid of my own opinion. When a conversation with my Uncle Joel turned towards the political, he made a statement about how he wished the electoral system would be run. Having studied comparative political science my junior year in high school, I was able to share how Brasil and the United Kingdom ran their elections, without once expressing what I thought of those systems vis-a-vis our own.
I had also learned how to diffuse politically-charged situations by turning the subject away from politics, and more towards what we as individuals can do to bring about the change we want to see in our own lives, or towards how God fit into the picture.
Perhaps most surprisingly, however, was the fact that I was actually learning from people I didn’t agree with! Various issues began to take on a new light, and I started to understand where the other party was coming from. While most of my own convictions were unchanged, my approach certainly was.
God had completely revolutionized my view of politics, and he continues to do so. At the start of May, I felt led to offer a challenge to all of my friends, which I will repost here. I’m openly inviting all of my readers to take part. I guarantee you will be surprised with the impact it has in your life:
Many people say that our politicans no longer represent us. The problem with our nation, however, is that they represent us VERY well. This is a democracy, thus, it is out of the abundance of a nation’s heart that the policians speak. When the people are, as a whole, greedy, self-serving, and arrogant, the politicians will be greedy, self-serving, and arrogant.
Now, more than ever, we need to realize that politicians will not save us. Obama is not our Savior. Romney is not our Savior. Gingrich is not our Savior. Santorum is not our Savior. No Congressman, no State Representative, no Justice is our Savior.
Instead of looking to the ballot to turn this country around, we need to look at our hearts. We must fall on our faces before God, and beg His forgiveness on behalf of this country. Then, we must choose to live out what we believe in our actions, not just in our words.
Imagine what would happen if we stopped spending all our time protesting and campaigning, and started loving and serving others unconditionally, as Christ did. Waving Republican and Democrat signs around is not going to do an ounce of good to turn this country back to God, especially when we’re doing that instead of clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, and caring for the orphan and the widow.
When we begin to live out the Great Commission, instead of focusing on Super Tuesday, that’s when we’ll start to see people turning back to God. And when they turn back to God, that’s when we’ll see a new breed of politicans being elected into office. When the nation as a whole is seeking God’s will, the politicians will be seeking God’s will.
So I encourage all of you to cast your ballot quietly this November, and instead spend all the time you would have used to debate politics and campaign for your favorite candidate, to live out the Christ’s calling for his followers. It is time God’s people started showing what they’re for, instead of saying what they’re against.
So, how about you? Will you answer the call?