Here I sit at 6:44 p.m. on New Year's Eve, 2008. I've been thinking about resolutions and whether I really am resolved to make any changes or whether I'm too afraid to fail again. By the time a person reaches my age (somewhere between bifocals and dementia), one has fairly well gotten to know one's own patterns. Change is hard. Especially losing weight when you're my age. As Barbara Johnson says, it's extra hard because your body and your fat have become good friends.
So I thought, Nah, resolve to only make intellectual changes this year. Relearn algebra. Take an economics class. Memorize Einstein's theory of relativity. However, I don't see the point, and if I don't see a point in something, I'm really, REALLY unlikely to pursue it . Besides,intellectually I am growing through teaching; I'm learning a lot more history, art, and
geography, as well as brushing up on rusty grammar. That's satisfying enough for now.
Turning another corner, I thought I'd improve socially. Have people over more often, I encouraged myself. Lots of different people. Start with the ones you don't like so well; get them out of the way. (I'm kidding! I'm seriously kidding!) I thought also of ways to improve my memory in social settings, where my remembrance of first names is getting worse. I feel like I should join the Army where it's protocol to address everyone by their last name. Trouble is, most women don't appreciate it, and most men aren't in my social circle.
Then I thought of looking only inward. Forget the social me, forget the intellectual me, forget the fat me. Look only at the spiritual me . (I think it's thinner anyway.)
That's when God arrested every part of me.
"Ask Me," He said. "Ask Me what you should dwell on in the coming year."
Whoa. Why hadn't I thought of that? In truth, I had, in a manner of speaking. I had asked for a new Bible study for Christmas, something by Beth Moore, though it didn't matter to me as long as I hadn't done it or it had been a long time. My husband gave me the one called "A Heart Like His." It's a study of the life of David.
I've just started and am revisiting the life of Saul. What struck me today and the past couple of days is the theme: To obey is better than sacrifice (I Sam 15). My tendency is not so much to outright disobey God, but to partially obey Him. Saul was told to completely wipe out the Amalekites, don't leave one person alive, and kill every single beast, no matter what. Well, Saul partially obeyed. He killed almost everyone, but spared King Agag. He killed almost all the animals, but kept the best ones--as he justified--"to sacrifice to God." Samuel confronted him on his sin, telling him that rebellion is like the sin of witchcraft.
The sin of witchcraft? Yes, to try to manipulate people or circumstances to get our way is like putting a spell on them. I have done it by pouting, crying, sighing, yelling, withholding, threatening, and other things. (We women have this multitasking thing down, don't we?) I have asked God to show me my rebellion, and He usually does so through my husband and kids. (Who needs a prophet when you've got honest, discerning, and bold family members?)
I tend to do a lot of "sacrifice" (work that appears good) instead of simply obeying. As scripture says, my real work is to believe Christ. And if I believe Him, I must necessarily obey Him.
To obey is better than sacrifice.