What are your plans for the New Year? Have you made your New Year’s resolutions yet, or are you still trying to eat the last of the holiday goodies before you make that leap? You certainly wouldn’t want all of those homemade treats to go to waste. A couple of years ago, I just couldn’t get on top of the organization that I wanted so badly to accomplish that goal, so of course I had sticky notes everywhere to help. Finally, my husband stepped in and said he was going to write my New Year’s resolution for me: “No more sticky notes!” (It didn’t help.)
Seriously, this time of year, I tell myself it is time for a change, time to start that new diet (the one that is THE definitive answer), and certainly time to start a great exercise routine. But somewhere around February, if not sooner, I begin to cave. One little bite won’t hurt, and if I skip exercise just this once, that would be okay, right? I often even feel pressure around the first of the year to start over with God, to be more consistent in my spiritual life, not missing my daily quiet time or Bible reading with the Lord in the coming year, as if He was keeping score!
Have you ever felt this way? Have you had a tendency to get caught up in the rules, so focused on following a new plan, that you might miss the obvious right in front of you? Do you walk through each day disappointed in yourself, not feeling like you measure up? I used to live that way, in fact, I’ve had decades of living that way. But something happened about a year ago that caught my attention, changed my perspective on the world.
Have you ever met someone who knows they have a problem, has been diagnosed with the problem, but still lives in denial of it? This is often seen in the healthcare world, a diabetic that won’t follow the diabetic diet, or a cardiac patient not following the heart diet. (In healthcare, we actually might be contributing to that denial by some of our terminology, speaking of people as becoming the victim of a heart attack, and soon people can adapt that victim mentality.)
But before focusing too much on others, I have to admit that I spent a lifetime of walking in denial in so many ways. For example, we recently laid a gorgeous dark wood floor with all of the distressed markings popular today, but the problem is two-fold. First, those distressed markings are slight indentations in the floor which actually traps dirt. Secondly, the darkness of the wood shows every single speck of dirt/dust. So why did I pick out such a floor, knowing we live on a dirt road? I was in denial. So, to counteract my denial, I clean it often, and try to appreciate what the floor tells me, what it reveals!
Gone are the days when we lived in the city and had carpet, when I could tell myself that the floor wasn’t that dirty. Eventually, the truth was revealed one day when we discovered the refrigerator had been leaking, seeping water underneath the spacious kitchen floor and under the adjacent living room floor, hidden by the carpet for weeks or even months undetected.
The good news is we had insurance which covered the renovation. The bad news is it took my husband months to redo that amount of flooring because when the soggy carpet pad was pulled back, we found a layer of mud, dirt (from all of the years of dust, dust mites, pet dander, mold spores, and allergens) mixed with water. And I had to face that fact that our floor had been really dirty for a long time.
Yet there was a major blessing hidden under all of that muck: the original wood floor! As the steps of restoration began, detergent agents and bleach water were used to remove all that had infiltrated that precious wood. Once it dried out, my husband then began buffing down the layers of the wood, to reveal the real beauty of the grain. Finally, the polishing process began, almost a reverse buffing, as my husband put on a coat of polyurethane, then buffed it up and repeated this process five times. The result was a highly polished look, an exquisite wood floor that would stand up to any amount of traffic and still gleam 15 years later!
Human nature makes us want to ignore what is clearly in front of us, thinking it will either fix itself or someone else will fix it. We have a tendency not to clean away the dirt if we don’t see it. But what if there is a slow leak, a problem that has gone underground, out of sight and needs to be addressed. Even with weeks of stripping several layers down, there were still some areas so water-stained that the damage couldn’t be corrected. We finally decided to look upon that section as a reminder of God’s grace, of how He takes the unlovely, the marred in our lives and still creates more than we could have been by ourselves, His beauty from our disappointment. As described in my last article, The Gifts of Christmas, sometimes those challenges will eventually work out more good than we could have ever imagined as we grow from them. Even for those born with a musical gift, they still have to be willing to work through the sour notes and errors to cultivate that talent within them. Do I want to gleam like that beautiful wood floor? Are you willing to be sanded down to get to the real beauty and then reverse buffed up and coated over to get that shine, to develop the awaiting lifetime of benefits?
As far as the new diet, the new exercise, and the new spiritual improvement plan for the New Year, I’ve been able to let go of those perfection images, for I realize none of those are real nor will they last. So, if beauty is only skin deep, what about the deeper layers of my life? When am I going to address the tough issues, the hidden issues that keep rearing their ugly head? Instead of focusing on the latest and greatest, the quickest way to the new me, in the last year, I’ve turned my focus to the eternal, on what will really matter not only today but after I am gone. What type of a legacy am I leaving and how does my effort today contribute to that? If I believe that God is real and that He has a plan for my life (which I do), do I believe He sees beneath the muck, the layers of mud that I accumulated from years of denial that there was dirt in my life that needed attention? If my life is like a piece of distressed wood with every mar and scar being a result of an unforgiven hurt or wound, isn’t it time to deal with those and forgive the offenders, instead of allowing them to continue to collect more dirt and drag me down further?
When my mom died, I was only 31 years old and I felt cheated. But losing her when I was so young became an impetus for me to view life differently and part of what I bring into each room as a nurse is that compassion for the one in the bed and the family members at bedside. Life truly isn’t fair, and problems occur. However, we can either choose to deal with them or ignore them, but either way, they will have influence over our lives. Instead of waiting for others to fix us or the answer to come from without, maybe it is time to realize that whatever daily challenges we face, personal accountability starts when we learn from each struggle. For me, after decades of denying that heart disease has ran rampant in my family of origin, I finally took personal responsibility about a year ago and got tested. As for the test results, well that will be for another story.
What has happened because of this wake-up call brought to my life? I would say I’ve gained a different perspective. This year, my aim is to evaluate the hidden me and what might need cleansing and healing, to find God’s peace in the midst of whatever I face. With the realization that there will never be another me (and that there is no one else in this world that can do the role I was placed her to do), instead of looking for a quick fix this year, I am looking forward to seeing what deep changes will come from simply walking by God’s grace every day, facing the challenges, not running from them, and watching Him work out the results.
What a revelation!
Feature Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash