Many of us scoff at the idea of New Year’s Resolutions. They’re cliché and only going to be abandoned after a month or so, right? You made the same resolutions the year before, and the year before that. Maybe you (sort of) stuck to them, but in the end you didn’t see a whole lot of difference.
Even if that’s how we feel, it’s tough to begin a new calendar without thinking of some changes we’d like to make. The key to those changes taking root depends on our seriousness about it. At one point running a few miles felt like a warm-up to me. Now, I feel I’ve earned a cookie if I walk to the mailbox without breathing hard. Our desire to change has to outpace the current comfort we’ve come to enjoy.
That desire usually needs a strong boost to get going. A once-comfortable old pair of pants now feels like some kind of torture device. Our kid asks us how our devotion time is going when we talk to them about the importance of theirs. Someone we thought of as a friend went through a crisis without us ever knowing about it because, well, life just got busy.
That wake-up also comes in the direst of situations. Last fall I wrote about Tyler Trent, the Purdue student with bone cancer whose story touched so many. It became one of the most-read stories for The Christian Index, particularly in the Indianapolis and West Lafayette, Ind., area.
When he started college Tyler’s dream was to become a sportswriter. That dream remained, but it soon became overtaken with doing whatever he could in the time he had to raise money for pediatric cancer causes. He did just that, raising thousands of dollars.
Tyler Trent’s earthly death came on Jan. 2. In addition to his calls for a cure to cancer, though, I believe he left behind something else. Even in his weakened physical state, Tyler’s steely resolve to make the most of the time he had left showed through. It inspired millions to find their purpose and act on it. It helped his underdog Boilermakers not just upset, but run over the second-ranked team in the country. (Incidentally, if you can watch this recap of that Saturday for Tyler and not be crying after the first minute, I have to question if you have a soul.).
On Dec. 6 Tyler was wheeled onto the stage by Purdue quarterback and fellow Christian David Blaugh, who had visited and prayed with the Trent family by Tyler's bed in previous months, as Tyler received the Disney Spirit Award. "There's always a light at the end of the tunnel," Tyler said. "As long as you rely on your faith, things will work out."
A tattoo on Tyler’s ankle signified his faith and fight against cancer. It featured the cancer awareness symbol flipped on its side to mirror the ancient Christian ichthus. Below that was “G >△▼" or “God is greater than my highs and lows.”
The easiest prediction to make is that 2019 will bring highs and lows. Count on it. The other thing to count on – something we often forget – is that God is greater. He’s greater than the situation in which we find ourselves. He’s greater than our choices that may have taken us there. He hears our cry for help (Ps. 34: 17-18) and responds (Phil. 4:19). But, it can’t be a magic-genie view of God. Scripture speaks just as emphatically on us making the effort (Col. 3:23; Rom. 12:11).
“Change only happens when we decide to actually do something about it,” Tyler said.
He’s right. There’s one crucial day out of the year to make that change – today. I’m not talking about Jan. 4, but today. I’m preaching to the mirror here. It’s easy to take a day off and promise you’ll make up the difference tomorrow. But when we do that the promise seems to drift into weeks and months. Before we know it, we’re hauling the Christmas tree back to the attic wondering where the year went.
Like you, I’m well-aware how small changes lead to big ones. Our desire to be who God has called us to be begins with them. The result is the difference we make in others’ lives – not to mention our own – through the gospel. And that’s nothing to scoff at.