We're all looking for ways to improve ourselves.
I've never been one to make a firm set of resolutions at New Year's, though in general, yes, as a perfectionist and an idealist, I have always been looking, looking, looking for how to be better at everything: Better friend, better mother, better housekeeper, better wife, better in physical fitness, better giver, better in knowledge, better at being forgiving, better at suffering, better at not only feeling empathy but also doing something about it. There's always something else to be done, to be improved upon.
But I look back now and wonder: What, if anything, did I really succeed at? Am I not just simply more depleted, less confident, more humbled and even more humiliated than I was before?
There are two things that I think have been working against me. The first is how very, very completely I believed in one statement made probably 5-6 years ago by my former pastor and friend. He said we believers are called to simply, "become what we already are." Even though I never expected to be able to achieve that perfectly, I did expect to be able to move toward it, because of who it is who works within me. I believed that I just needed to open myself up to that possibility of his working in me, and I believed that others, my community, sitting in that room with me heard those same words and believed them and wanted the same thing. But that didn't happen. Since that time, I saw only more and more external rules and laws being put up around people, to be sure that no one had to even make an effort at all to "become what we already are." It was just one right after another saying, "We can't do anything right, so we have to set up restrictions to be sure we never get tested or challenged." And no one resisted that view. A few people were strong enough to continue to live by grace in their own lives, but much with an attitude of, "Let what works for them work for them, but I'm going to do my own thing over here." Steve Brown calls that letting the wolves in to the congregation, when no one pushes back against the subtle infiltration of legalism.
A part of me really began to deteriorate because of the pervasiveness and insistence of that movement, because it means there is no God in Israel--not an active one, not the one who promised sanctification and presence and freedom to live in grace. Not the one in the Bible. And that brings me to the second thing that was working against me: my rose-colored glasses. It's because of those rose-colored glasses, that assumes even the wolves MUST mean well, they're just misunderstood; and that everyone must really want the fulfilment of good things; and that the world really could be better than it is right now, that I began to deteriorate in the face and practice of actual reality.
My current pastor, who understands idealism to some degree but has lived long enough and through enough and out in the real world enough to have a better perspective than I, said to me this summer, "Rebecca, your rose-colored glasses are not doing you any earthly good." And he is right. In fact, those pinky lenses just set me up for so much farther to fall. The world is less pink than red, really. Because, in the words of The Player, "Blood is compulsory." There's nothing Precious-Momentsy about that, and no wishful thinking in the world can take that truth out of our reality.
And so I think the resolution for 2014 has to be simply, "No longer cast your pearls before swine." I have cast and I have cast and I have cast. I am God's precious pearl. He said so in Matthew 13. He is my treasure and I (within his whole church, but as one of its many parts) am his pearl. He does not want me pouring myself out endlessly where I am only going to be trampled underfoot. He gives validation to the need, sometimes, to stop trying. Seventy times seven, was, while likely meant to be hyperbole, also a finite number.
2014 is a good year for the rose-colored glasses to come off. And not only to come off, but to be crushed under the heel of my combat boot. And to shake the rose-colored dust from my feet afterward.
Maybe the shoes of the good news of peace look a lot like combat boots. Let 2014 be one of seeing clearly and standing firm on what's really right in a world that is really not right and won't be, and still not accepting that which is "almost right" and deceptively convincing.