Don’t Miss the Trees for the Forest

Today's guest blogger is Stephanie VanGorden. She has been a child of God for 29 years, a wife for 11 years, and a mom for 2 years to two children she and her husband are hoping to adopt from the foster system. Stephanie used to be a counselor and Bible teacher. These days, she counsels little hearts, teaching her babies to love and memorize the Word of God, and her writing consists of modeling the ABC's for a preschooler who's dying to write. 

Good habits are not made on birthdays, nor Christian character at the new year.
The workshop of character is everyday life.
The uneventful and commonplace hour is where the battle is lost or won.
Maltbie D. Babcock

Turn the calendar to January 1—new day, new year, blank slates—and people get inspired to dream up all sorts of things they're going. to. do. this year.

"This year will be different!"

"It'll be so easy with this simple plan..."

"Join [insert gym name here] and finally keep your resolution to lose weight!..."

Funny—I saw that commercial last year. I guess they know that very few really keep their New Year resolutions. We dream big, and then fail spectacularly. I think we assume that simply deciding a thing is the same as doing the thing. Not true.

I know.

I've been alive for 35 New Years now, and I've made resolutions for probably 25 of them. Have I kept a single one? Doubtful. You see, I'm the queen of big plans. I can organize and administrate circles around most people. I can think through details. I can envision a big picture and then take it apart bit by bit to get it accomplished. I research the life out of all my options and make sure I'm planning what is best for this situation.

And then fail on one teeny, tiny, little detail: actually doing what needs to be done. I'm the queen of the Court of Planning; I'm the court jester of Following Through.

And I think I know why: because I've forgotten that character isn't built on big decisions made on auspicious occasions. Not that it can't start there—if you make resolutions and keep them, let's talk! But making resolutions simply doesn't work in my life. As Babcock said, "The uneventful and commonplace hour is where the battle is lost or won." I coordinated a wedding once where the only people listed in the program who actually did their jobs were the ones who had to buy new clothes for the wedding. No one else even knew they had a job...because the couple getting married decided who they wanted to ask, but never followed through with the actual asking. All sorts of chaos ensued—comedic, looking back, but a hassle at the time.

So, in my 25+ years of failure, this is what I've learned about resolutions:

It's all you can do, after all. God doesn't give sufficient grace for all decisions at once, just as you can't breathe once in the morning and have the oxygen last you a whole day. He gives sufficient grace for each opportunity to obey, as it comes to you. Make a big decision if it helps you—January 1 is an auspicious occasion, after all, and there is something special about those kinds of decisions. Write it on an index card or, if you're me, put together a beautifully formatted and illustrated page that can be framed, even. Make your plans, because we've all heard it: "Failing to plan is planning to fail!" I'll even help, if you want me to!

Usually we get so bogged down in the details that we miss the big picture; we say we're missing the forest for the trees. But January 1 is the one time of year when we miss the trees for the forest. Decide on the big picture. See it in all its glory. Plan for the details.

But then, when the first opportunity to obey comes up, choose well. For that opportunity, and that opportunity alone. It may be the only one you get, because God could call you Home...either individually or—oh the glory!—He could come rapture His Church! And when you've obeyed once, recognize that was only a battle in the war. Thank God for His grace, and then make a new resolution—to obey again, just once, the very next time you're tempted to fall back into the same old habits.

Resolve, if resolve you must, to make your changes not just on paper, not just by signing a contract at a gym, not just by joining this organization or that one. If you resolve, resolve—by the glorious and all-sufficient grace of God—to fight your battles one by one, and obey in "the uneventful and commonplace hour."

We make our resolutions on this auspicious occasion. We keep them only in everyday life.

Stephanie lives in a tiny corner in Colorado where her family serves with Village Missions, a missions organization whose purpose is to strengthen and establish healthy Biblical churches in North America, primarily in rural areas.