As I was in the Word this morning, I came across a very familiar passage to me, but one which outlined some things I think we'd do well to really hold onto as we begin this new year. January is a time of renewal - we begin the process of sorting through the stuff we ended up with from the last year, some of it physical, others a little more mental, and then we decide what will remain and what will go. As we go through this process, we often decide some "commitment" of some sort is necessary. We call these "resolutions". I don't like to make any "resolutions" because as soon as I do, they are subject to being broken! One thing I do appreciate about the new year is the chance for a fresh start. It is like God gives us a clean slate - a chance to begin again. So, as the days tick by, what we chose to do with our "clean slate" makes all the difference in the outcome of the year!
The revelation of God is whole and pulls our lives together. The signposts of God are clear and point out the right road. The life-maps of God are right, showing the way to joy. The directions of God are plain and easy on the eyes.
God’s reputation is twenty-four-carat gold, with a lifetime guarantee. The decisions of God are accurate down to the nth degree. (Psalm 19:7-9 MSG)
The starting point for any change is recognizing the need for change. It is often in the discovery of something in the Word that we uncover the very thing which needs to see "change" in our lives. Maybe this is why our psalmist begins with the idea of God's revelation being whole - there is nothing missing there. When God reveals stuff to us, he does it completely, although we may not "grasp" it fully the first time around. Most importantly, look at what David says about God's revelation - it pulls our lives together. At first, we think the revelation of truth in our lives will pull us APART, but it is only in pulling things apart that we can "weed out" what doesn't belong - the very thing we need to get rid of in order to be "pulled together".
As we are exposed to the possibilities of change, we almost always struggle with the uncertainty change produces. Most of us resist change for this very reason - we don't know what lies ahead, so we balk a little when change is called for. The good news is God provides "signposts" which point out the path we need to take. It is one thing to proclaim we need change - it is quite another to actually know what to do and how to do it! God's "signposts" are first of all clear - they don't get us more confused, but settle us into a certain course. Then they are able to keep us pointed in the right direction. Look at the passage again - there is not just one signpost - but many. God is faithful to give us "check-in" spots along the way to let us know we are on the right track. Isn't that what the various signposts on the highway help us to know? As we see those numbered signs ticking by, we can see we are making progress in the direction we were headed. God's signposts in our lives do exactly the same thing. His signposts may not be physical, but they are there nonetheless. It may be the encouraging words of a friend who notices the first signs of change in our lives, or the image we see when we look into the mirror. The idea carried here is that their will be "confirming" spots along the way which give us assurance and keep us heading in the right direction.
Change begins with the first step, but continual renewal comes in following the "life-maps" God gives. This is why I spend time each day in the Word. It is my "life-map" by which I am assured to find not only the first destination along the pathway of change, but each continued resting spot, cleansing spot, and renewal spot. Yep, just like a traveler using a map to find the next rest stop along a busy highway, God uses his Word to get us to the next place of "rest" in our journey through change. Why does he bring us to resting places? If we didn't rest, we'd burn out! There are also cleansing spots along the way, just like a traveler who finds it necessary to run the car through the car wash on occasion on a long journey. The purpose of the car wash is not to just shine the car up, but to remove the debris from the journey! A whole lot of "debris" has a way of attaching itself to the car in the journey, just like a whole lot of debris has a way of attaching itself to our hearts. We often need to take time to "cleanse" ourselves in the places of cleansing - so we are able to see clearly for the next leg of the journey. The renewal spots are those places where the weary traveler not only finds rest, but intake which strengthens and energizes them for the journey. Change is made easiest when we are following the "life-map" clearly marked out with these "stops" along the way.
Getting clarity along the journey is often needed, isn't it? If you have ever been on a journey into new territory, you might just not the area well enough to traverse it with confidence. David tells us God gives us directions which are clear and easy to follow. If we are relying on any other directions, the journey through change will be made all the more difficult! God stakes his reputation on the clarity of direction he gives - there is no mystery in his directional advice. He is not the one who says, "Turn right at the fourth bent oak tree on the right side of the road, then left at the sixth red barn." In fact, he says things like, "Stay within this boundary line and you will be fine." His directions are trustworthy.
In the venture through change, we need to know someone has a plan. Isn't it good to know God has things thought out and planned for us down to the "nth" degree? I am eager to step out whenever I know someone has planned well, aren't you? When the planning is in place, all I need to do is take the first step. What is the first step God is asking for you to take today? Maybe you don't have a full view of the "life-map" yet, but I believe you will begin to see each "leaf" of the map unfold as you take the first step and then each subsequent one in response to the unfolding of this plan. So, step out, step in, and be on your way. The road ahead awaits. Just get steppin!