Friday, December 30, 2016

A Change of Heart

As we all look forward to the new year, resolutions are forefront on many of our minds. What do we want to do, where do we want to go, what changes do we want to make in the new year? As I said yesterday, the best resolutions are resolutions for the heart.

But that doesn't mean they have to be touchy-feely or obscurely deep; resolutions for the heart can be practical and simple and still be invaluably meaningful.

For example, a few months ago, I made a decision about television. Well, several decisions. First, I determined to turn off anything that had uncouth language. Now, I'm not one of those Christians who tends to worry too much about language, but most of these television shows that curse gratuitously also use a lot of innuendo. And the problem with innuendo is that it teaches us to listen in an impure way - we hear the unsaid filth, rather than taking others at their word. We listen beyond conversation, and not in a good way. So I turned it off. And you know what? My heart is learning to hear again. 

How is this a resolution for the heart? It has restored me to relationship. It has changed the way that I interact with others. It has allowed me to come purely into communion. This is the first step to loving each other.

I also decided that I was not going to watch gratuitous violence or get drawn into crime shows. There are a couple of standards that are on my favorites list for character development, and I continue to watch new episodes of them, but no longer the reruns. Why? The headlines are right - they desensitize us. And the headlines are wrong - they overly sensitize us. When your neighbor tells you of real tragedy, you cannot be trying to figure out how your favorite set of television characters would handle it. When you hear of heartache, you cannot live in a world that expects it to be solved in under 60 minutes. And at the same time, when you have to stop at a gas station in the middle of nowhere or have a repairman over to your house, you can't be thinking, "This is how it starts." This kind of constant immersion in human depravity taints our relationship with both real humans and real depravity. We've lost it all. So I turned it off. And you know what? My heart is learning to be broken again.

Further, I decided that I would not longer do marathons of shows, which was particularly to pass the time. Since I don't have a streaming service, this amounted to whatever marathons the networks were showing at any given time. But immersing ourselves in television in these ways, for long periods of time, further removes us from the community of real people around us. So I turned them off. And you know what? My heart is rediscovering my real community.

It's gotten to the point where I don't even catch much news any more, and I used to be a news junkie. There are a lot of problems with the news these days. For example, most of the local news consists of crime stories that only really affect a handful of people in a community of hundreds of thousands, and yet, we're convinced that they have something to do with us. They are an expose of people's lives who we will never know, tragedies we will never be caught up in. They take us away from the people that we do know and the very real stories we're written into. On the national level or on the grander scale, the news is pretty good at getting us to have a mind for things around the world that we can never do anything about, either. And this, too, pulls us away from our very real stories in our very real communities. So I turned them off. And you know what? It's amazing.

All of this is very practical. It's nothing superhuman. It's nothing touchy-feely. It's nothing obscurely deep. It doesn't dwell in some deep wound that I haven't been able to heal (although I have plenty of those). But it's just this small thing, this small set of decisions about something so mundane as television. And it has revolutionized my heart.

My heart beats with the pulse of my own community again. I hear the people who are talking with me, and I'm able to talk with them. My heart breaks for human depravity, rather than just accepting or even expecting it. My life is invested in the actual people in my actual community in my actual story. And in turn, several other things about me are changing, things that I could have resolved just to change, but with much less success because they would not have been a change of the heart. 

The heart of the resolution is not to get yourself to...; it is to give yourself to.... It is to figure out how to reconnect with the life that God has given you, to live it wholly and fully in good grace and generosity, in real community with those around you. We are all written onto the pages of each other's stories, and it's no scripted procedural. 

It's this amazing, enrapturing, beautiful narrative that we're all living together by the very hand of God. This new year, give yourself back to your story, to your community, to your God. 

This is real resolution. 

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