Across the Pastor’s Desk: Be slow and steady this year
Published 8:00 pm Friday, January 6, 2023
Across the Pastor’s Desk by Tyler Mykkanen
As the new year begins, I feel an unavoidable urge to write about resolutions. Rather than fight this urge, let me indulge it for a few paragraphs.
New beginnings appeal to us in ways hard to ignore. We make our plans with the best intentions, fertilized by fresh resolve from last year’s failures. This will be the year!
We stock the fridge with nothing but carrots. We feel like rabbits, but at least we’re #winning. But we quickly lose resolve. Inevitably, we give up, wrapping old habits around us like a warm blanket. Oh well, there’s always next year.
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Though I’m a pessimist, I am not against resolutions. But I want to caution us. The appeal of the new and impressive and instant can lead us to despise the ordinary of a well-lived Christian life.
We tend to think success in the new year comes from the big change. But living with persistent faithfulness requires the slow work we don’t feel cut out for. We want the mountaintop of Sinai rather than the desert wilderness. We’re perfectly happy for God to part the Red Sea, but we grow weary of the 12,168th day of manna. Year after year, we resolve “we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.” And year after year, we almost immediately turn back to doing whatever is right in our own eyes.
So friends, let me exhort you even as I exhort myself. As we enter the new year and resolve afresh to follow Jesus, let’s resolve to be boringly ordinary in our faith. Let’s resolve to persist in the slow and steady everyday faithfulness of the unimpressive and (seemingly) unimportant.
Consider Jesus. He was not born impressive. He cried. He spit up. “He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” Instead of Jerusalem, the center of everything, Jesus was born five miles away in Bethlehem. This was not because he actually was unimpressive or unimportant. Jesus upheld the universe even as he lay in the manger!
But why a manger rather than a throne? Why a hovel in Nazareth rather than a palace in Jerusalem?
Jesus’ ministry was not immediate. He grew up in the sticks, learning carpentry from his father Joseph. This wasn’t because he didn’t have anything urgent to do. The fullness of time had come, and Jesus was on the most significant mission in the history of the world! What was the savior of the world doing with wood chips in his beard? Why did the creator of all things need to learn to make furniture?
The answer to both of these things is in the way God calls us to live: faithfulness in the ordinary and everyday. Jesus doesn’t only redeem us from the curse of sin; he shows us how to live in this sin-cursed world. Jesus lived a truly human life — the slow life of the ordinary. He learned obedience through what he suffered not only on the cross but in the everyday frustrations of a fallen world. When temptation came, he did not take shortcuts. He resisted the world, the flesh and the devil because of the joy set before him. And as our faithful friend and high priest who knows what life is like for us, this is how Jesus calls us to live.
This means the most important resolutions you can make are not the dramatic and immediate and temporary ones, but the ordinary habits that cultivate a way of life. So this year, resolve to be slow and steady. Resolve to be boringly ordinary in your faith. Resolve to read your Bible and pray and go to church. And watch God do remarkable things through these ordinary means of grace. And maybe make something out of wood while you’re at it.
Tyler Mykkanen is pastor at Sojourners Church.