As the new calendar year moves into its second week, I wonder if the sweet tinkle of New Year resolutions already have begun to sound a bit tinny. Perhaps you are one of the rare ones who find lasting, sustaining and meaningful change to be effortless. If so, please share your wisdom! In my experience, most of us find habits to be stubborn, entrenched and intractable in spite of our best efforts. Perhaps that is why the coaching industry is burgeoning. And by coaching, I do not mean of little league teams but of executives and entrepreneurs and ordinary folk. People who are serious about personal growth and change in their external landscape quickly discover that the prerequisite is shifting their internal landscape. And for most of us, this does not come easily. So people are increasingly turning to coaches—life coaches, executive coaches, health coaches, and the list goes on—to help them manifest the change they seek.
What change do you wish to manifest in your life? In this season after the Epiphany, having witnessed God made manifest in Jesus, we Christians are called to make evident that same light in our own lives. When you stop and truly think about it, that is quite a significant commission. How well do we make manifest, evident and conspicuous that Light and Love in our ordinary, daily lives? Sometimes, exceedingly well. At other times, however, most of us fall short. I know I do.
In December, I read a troubling blog by David Hansen from the online “Episcopal Café” suggesting some of the reasons why so many people today choose not to attend church. What he found was surprising and more than a little unsettling, especially to those of us who love the church and its people:
It is not that people outside the church have low expectations of Christians. It’s the opposite. They expect us to actually live out the things we proclaim on Sunday. They expect us to love our neighbor, care for the least of these and love our enemies. They have high expectations for us, and we have disappointed them. Instead they have been insulted, hurt and broken by us.
Ouch. I don’t know about you, but I that hurt my feelings. I want to jump to our defense and lash out with a laundry list of excuses. But when I take a deep breath and listen, really listen, perhaps it is information I need to hear. Because I know people, good honest, intelligent, caring people who do feel this way about Christians, and I do know that sometimes those claims are sadly true. For all of us. We are quick to talk the talk, but we, sometimes, fail to walk the walk. Jesus spent a lot of time naming that very real and very human flaw in the religious of his day.
So in this season of change how do we allow the Gospel, the good news, to truly permeate our lives, doing more than just tumbling out of our mouths without transforming our lives? I think it begins with being honest, recognizing and admitting the lethargy that lulls us into remaining stuck in our habits, unconscious of the call to make manifest the Light and Love in and through all things. If we can admit that, in the depths of our being, then we are open to wondering what courage we would need to review our habits with a fresh as well as loving eye, with an eye to taking seriously living into our call to be light bearers even if doing so requires us to change.
In the Christian tradition, the faithful in every generation have sought out coaches—variously called spiritual directors, spiritual companions, and soul-friends—to be safe places to explore who and how we are, as well as support us in our desire to make manifest the light of Christ more fully. How do you lean into the St. Elisabeth’s community to support you on your Way, in challenging your habits and finding ways you can to make manifest the Light in your particular circumstances more clearly? Once you identify something you wish to manifest, what kind of support, accountability and encouragement do you have in place to help you make lasting, meaningful change? Perhaps it is a group with whom you can ‘be real’, perhaps it is making time with a mentor or exploring the possibility of meeting with a spiritual director.
This Sunday we renew our baptismal covenant to making manifest the Light and Love of Christ in our lives. I encourage you to take a step to support yourself in that commitment. What do you need from your faith community to do so? Together, and with God’s help, we can.