"And Mary kept all these things,reflecting on them in her heart." - Luke 2:19The temptation is enormous, isn't it? January 1st is a new opportunity to get it right. This year will be different. I won't eat so much. I'll exercise more. You'll quit smoking. She'll finish that project she's been putting off. He'll learn that thing he's always wanted to learn. We'll all be more faithful about praying every day.
We all know how those plans will work out, at least if past performance is predictive of future performance. The first day or few or week will be great! This year will be different! Then something happens. It doesn't matter what it is. Let's call it life. We go to my mother-in-law's for dinner, and she has made this fabulous dessert. It's cold and snowy, and I miss my walk. Your mother calls and gives you that same old hard time, and all you can think of is how a cigarette would take the edge off. The project is taking so much of her time. Learning something new at his age is so hard. And as for prayer...
What is it about consistency in prayer that can seem so hard? I wonder if we make it hard.
There is so much advice about prayer. We're told to set a special space and a special time. We have devotional books and journals, techniques and procedures. Get it right!
The truth is, God is always available. Do we believe that? Do we believe that prayer "counts" no matter when or where we turn to God? How do we understand what prayer is? Is it, can it be, enough to open ourselves to the God who is always and ever open to us? Does it count just as much if I open my heart in my car or my kitchen or my desk at work as if I do it in my special chair in my prayer corner? Can I imagine my life as an offering of ceaseless prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17)? It can be that, if I am willing to allow it to be.
The real question might be: Do I want my life to be a life of prayer? Prayer changes things. Chiefly, my prayer changes me. I like to think that what I do is going to make the real difference. It'll be the new diet, the gym membership, the nicotine patch, the finishing, the learning that will make things -- make me -- better, right.
Mary, twice in Luke's nativity stories, does nothing except to "ponder...in her heart" what God, through his messengers, has had to say about her, her life, her child. She doesn't resolve to live differently. She takes in the word and holds it there, in her heart. She reflects, maybe for years, maybe for a lifetime.
That is the example of Mary's faithful trust. She allows. She receives. "Let it be done to me." She doesn't have to do anything else in order to be transformed in the ways that really matter.
Neither do we. Real transformation isn't something we accomplish. It is something that happens to us. We allow it. We, like Mary, say, Yes.
How might things be different this year if you resolved today -- and tomorrow, one day at a time -- to receive whatever it is that God is ready to offer to you? How can you open your heart and offer to God an unequivocal, Yes?
May your Yes be the only resolution you need to make.