The Whole Tree Down

C. S. Lewis once wrote, “The Christian way is different: harder, and easier. Christ says, ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked – the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.”

3, 2, 1 and the ball drops. Voices cheer. Lips kiss. Arms hug. And 2015 is no more. This is when folks begin to undecorate the trees, hide the holly, and pack away the christmas china. This too, is when the resolutions start. When the lists are made and those same folks promise to make themselves better, stronger, wiser, and thinner. Year after year after year.

I’ve tried that before. Making the list. And every year the list is lost along with all of the promises I made to myself. So I rang in 2016 with no list. With no promises other than, “get out of bed in the morning, and live.”

C. S. Lewis also wrote, “The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self – all your wishes and precautions – to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call ‘ourselves,’ to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be ‘good.’ We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way – centered on money or pleasure or ambition – hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us not to do. As He said, a thistle cannot produce figs. If I am a field that contains nothing but grass-seed, I cannot produce wheat. Cutting the grass may keep it short: but I shall still produce grass and no wheat. If I want to produce wheat, the change must go deeper than the surface. I must be ploughed up and resown.”

This is why I made no list this year. For every year I do, it turns into a piece of paper with shallow roots. I mean, I can read scripture everyday, but if I choose to not let it transform me and bring hope to the people around me, what’s the point in even reading it? I say that, not to be cynical, but because I think Lewis was onto something. Our resolutions are often so much about ourselves that we cease to see something deeper than ourselves. And I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get awfully tired of myself.

This is also why I made no list this year. Because more often than not, my resolutions, if I’m being honest, are usually more about myself than they are about other people.

Today I read my Bible, not because it was something to check off on a sheet of paper, but rather because I needed guidance as to what 2016 should look like.

Hebrews 10: 19-25 read, “We have, then, my brothers, complete freedom to go into the Most Holy Place by means of the death of Jesus. He opened for us a new way, a living way, through the curtain – that is, through his own body. We have a great priest in charge of the house of God. So let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith, with hearts that have been purified from a guilty conscience and with bodies washed with clean water. Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise. Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good. Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer.”

I read and re-read this. Because according to God, this is what 2016 is to look like in my life. You see, Jesus opened a new way. A living way. Who wouldn’t want to resolute in the new year to live in that new and living way? To live in such a way that you don’t have to rely on your own broken promises, but rather on the promises of a God whose depth reaches deep enough that they don’t break?

It doesn’t have to be about us.
It shouldn’t be about us.

Day in and day out, year after year, there is someone so much stronger than our weaknesses. Knowing that should be enough reassurance that the new year can be different, for this kind of different God calls us to doesn’t depend on the own changes we make, but rather on him, the One who can lead us into living differently.

Lewis wrote that Christ wants our whole tree down. I want it down too.
Lewis wrote that the ground needs to be ploughed and resown. I want that too.

But I don’t wish to waste my time trying to uproot my own tree or plough my own ground, God has to do that. I just have to get out of bed in the morning, and live. Live in such a way that God is allowed to do that. Live in such a way that the old can be old, and the new can be new. Jesus opened a new way and I long to enter in that way because it is pure and it is good. It has the ability to take the dirty garments of the past and make something clean and righteous with our present days and the future ones to come.

So heres to 2016. May we place our wishes and our precautions before the Jesus who makes living another year a possibility.

This isn’t a new years list. This is life.

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