According to most of what I’ve heard and read, most New Year’s resolutions don’t last more than a couple of weeks. We’re a little over six weeks into the new year, so I thought I’d check and see how I was doing. In case you missed it in my post called “Wishing You a Messy New Year,” here’s my resolution:
I don’t usually make resolutions, because I’m not very good at keeping them. But this year, I think I’ll resolve to be a little messier. I think I’ll take the time to connect with others, even if it takes more time and isn’t as convenient. I think I’ll share my light and my blessings, even if it means a few stains on the carpet. I think I’ll start off the new year by asking God to “bless this mess,” and I think when I look back on the year next December, I’ll find that He did.
When I made that resolution, I wasn’t sure what being a little messier looked like, so I tried to keep my eyes open for opportunities to become more involved or to connect with those around me.
After the holiday break, I went back to AWANA on Wednesday nights even though I considered quitting. AWANA is a children’s ministry that teaches kids about the Bible and about how special they are to God. I’m a “listener,” which means just what it says. I listen to kids as they recite Bible verses, and I initial their progress cards when they successfully complete a section. It’s a messy endeavor. David’s a listener, too, and we have to eat dinner early on AWANA nights. Then we deal with little people who are lively enough to solve the energy crisis if we could harness their life force. If we have enough adults, each listener has two kids, but on some nights there are 3 to 4 kids per adult. The groups are put together at random, so in addition to recitations, you may deal with boy/girl attractions, boy/boy rivalry, ADD, and other issues, all while sitting on the sanctuary steps, the floor in the hallway, or the edging around the flower bed if your kids sweet talk you into going outside. But when a kid nails the 23rd Psalm or rattles off the books of the New Testament in perfect order or says I want you to be my listener again next week, it’s worth it.
I also “signed up.” Our church is big on “thinking outside the building,” and for the entire month of January, sign-up sheets are available for the various ministries that will be carried out during the year. I didn’t go crazy, but I put my name on several sheets. I called a couple of friends I hadn’t talked to in a while, and I thought about calling several others (hey, I’m a work in progress). I welcomed a visit from my aunt and my cousin even though my house wasn’t clean, and I helped serve lunch for a family before a funeral. I salvaged some empty tea jugs from a ladies’ luncheon for a Boy Scout igloo project, and I signed up for the BFF Program (Building Faithful Friendships). But mostly I listened.
David and I go to the Senior Center for lunch most week days. We know almost everybody there, so we can always find somebody to sit with. We chat while we eat, but until I made my resolution, I usually left the table as soon as I finished eating. I’d go browse the bookshelf or work on the jigsaw puzzle du jour or chat with the staff in the kitchen or the office. But after the new year, I began looking around a bit and listening a lot. I rediscovered something David and I learned in our RV travels. Everybody has a story, and everybody wants to tell their story. With that in mind, I drew on my counselor training and my introverted tendencies that make me better at listening than at talking, and I listened. Some days half the afternoon is gone when we get home from the Center, but in the last six weeks I’ve heard years of gossip about the lifetime residents of our little town, I’ve heard heart-rending stories of abuse and tragedy, I’ve heard hilarious stories of dealing with irritating neighbors, and I’ve heard an amazing retired school teacher tell me about this history of Texas outlaws. But what do people’s stories have to do with really connecting, with sharing my light and my blessings?
Several years ago Christian and Amy wrote a book called “Myspace to Sacred Space: God for a New Generation.” In it they talked about the power of story and community in the life of the church. And recently John Fischer talked about story in his blog “The Catch.” In a post called “On Camera” he said:
Knowing someone’s story is a big step in caring for them. It puts the focus off of you and onto them. It says that the events in their life – the things they care about – are important to you as well. You want to know them.
In a follow-up post called “Action,” he said:
What does this mean for…us? We need to be more conscious of being story-seekers. Everyone has a story to tell that holds great value. Each story is God’s story in the making…let’s you and I begin…learning to listen to what others have to say by approaching others with an open heart, asking open-ended questions, perking up our ears attentively, and shutting our mouths.
So how am I doing? The last few weeks have been a bit messy, with little or no plan, and last-minute changes to the plans that are in place. That’s hard for a control freak like me, but it feels like God has indeed blessed my resolution and the ensuing mess, and that feels good. I guess I’ll keep at it for a few more weeks.