I know each year promotes lists – either of things to do or accomplishments done. I try to resist grand pronouncements and resolutions. But 2013 was really a big year for me – not because of what I did, but rather what I learned. Lessons I don’t want to slip away because I think building on them could be so valuable for 2014.
So here they are….no drum roll necessary.
1. The Power of Thanks.
Yes, yes. I do know that old hymn, “Count your many blessings! Name them one by one!” And several years ago, I did read that slim volume on “The power of Gratitude”. But 2013 gave me an experienced appreciation of just how much others speak into my life. I got through the marathon training (and the race) because of others. I published my first book through the support of others. And each time I was viscerally aware of how much space others have in my life.
Until 2013, I think much of my saying thank you to others was a way of validating and empowering them. This year I realized expressing gratitude to others was a small but important means by which we acknowledge mutuality and connectedness.
One year my sister decided to specifically say “thanks” to a person who made a difference: the school crossing guard, the janitor at work, a long ago teacher. I hope to incorporate that practice this year myself.
2. Watch the Little Stuff.
Transformation doesn’t begin with the big. It starts with the little. Every time.
We’ve learned this in every history class we’ve ever taken. But still, you get out there in the ‘real world’ and…well, it’s easy to think unless the action is grand it’s just not that important. But it is.
- Running 26.2 miles started with just getting up and lacing up my shoes. Daily.
- Staring the Montgomery Bus Boycott began with remaining seated.
- Becoming the moral legend of Nelson Mandela began with asking forgiveness on his jailor.
In 2013 I learned physically to not ignore the power of the little action. The little determination. The little act of faith.
Jesus was really on to something with that whole mustard seed thing. You want to grow closer to God? Focus on a few minutes of prayer, a little bit of reading, pause to take in the sunset and pay attention to the excitement of your kid. That’s where it begins.
3. What we call ‘possible’ or ‘impossible’ are our categories, not God’s.
My congregation is likely already sick of hearing this one, but wow, this insight is a life changer. Being a 3 on the enneagram means I tend to focus on what will be successful. I live in the world of what I think can be accomplished. Quixotic adventures are fine, but let’s face it, they don’t produce too much.
In 2013, God taught me that focusing on what’s possible is a way of managing my expectations of what others and I can do. It’s a human category, not a divine one. God simply doesn’t think in terms of strategic possibility. The Almighty isn’t hand wringing thinking “Oh I hope this works!” Each time God calls someone in the Bible there’s only one question on the table: Are you going to say yes or not? Go ahead and take a look: Abraham, David, Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jesus.
God is only looking for people to say yes. We can leave the rest up to Him.
This is the way life works. How could I not have seen that before? If the Lord wants it done, then not by might, nor by power but by his spirit it will happen. God’s just looking for some folks to say, Okay. I’ll all in.
That’s it. The top three lessons I’m taking into the rising sun of 2014.