Men, how well are you doing with your New Year Resolutions. Here is a quote from Mark Galli, editor in chief at Christianity Today, that is a good reminder that our resolutions can cause more harm than good if we don’t have the right perspective. “This is a paradoxical reality that has been exploited effectively by Alcoholics Anonymous for decades. The more a alcoholic strives to control her drinking, the more she is given to drink. The moment she admits she has no control over alcohol, that’s when she can gain some freedom – as long as she continues to identify herself accordingly: ‘Hi, I’m Anne, and I’m an alcoholic”….it remains a paradox that many don’t make any progress in the spiritual life until they understand themselves by their failure: ‘Hi, I’m [ Al ], and I’m a sinner.'”
Beware, men – will power and determination will never be enough. As David Zahel has observed, “We love the law because it promises us agency – it puts the keys to our wellbeing in our own hands.” It has taken my a long time to escape the trap of “performance orientation.” I can still get caught. Will power, determination and discipline will never be enough to carry out my resolutions. The pressure to preform usually throws me back on myself, causing me to fall into the pit of guilt, failure, discouragement and self-loathing. It becomes all about how well or how badly I am performing. The language of “if/then” indicates the tyranny of the law (oughts and shoulds). Remember men, “The law tells us what we ought to do; the gospel tells us what God has done…..nothing that needs to be done, hasn’t already been done (Zahel).”
This year many in the church will be remembering the 500 anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, begun with the posting of Martin Luther’s 95 thesis. In #26 Luther stated, “The law says, ‘Do this,’ and it is never done. Grace says, ‘Believe in this,’ and everything is already done.” Zahl noted, “The pressure to self-justify has been removed, and it has been replaced with freedom: freedom to die and yet to live, to fail and yet succeed.”
Willfulness can produces a rigid stubbornness that is more against then for something. A man can become brittle and inflexible, with little spiritual vitality in his walk with the Lord. In some cases, he can be cut off from relationships and the truth about himself. He will be prideful of his spiritual improvement project, while displaying a defensive, negative posture to those who disagree with him. We have a name for it – Pharisee. I am personally “a recovering Pharisee.”
Real change comes when a man admit that he is powerless to change; the first step in AA. He lnows transformation comes from within, not tinkering on the outside. The key is – surrender to love. Only love is powerful enough to bring transformation change. It’s not the will to love, but the openness to love that counts. In trust, the choice is to open our hearts to the love of God. This was the key in my life. I began to accept God’s unconditional love for me, beyond my understanding and experience. I slowly came to the awareness that God loved me so that I might love him, through the love he has for me. Its all about relationship rather than compliance to a standard.
For men who can be so focused on accomplishment and achievement, based on performance, this is truly good news. Remember Jesus words to Paul, “My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness” (II Cor. 12:8).