Published by Michael Bigg on Tue, 16 Jan 2018 15:09

By the end of January I hope that lots of you are managing to keep up New Year’s resolutions. I’m sure there are people all around who are eating a better diet, drinking less, smoking less, reading more, spending more time with their families and getting more exercise (I certainly see lots of Team Bex runners past my window at the moment!) If that’s you then congratulations! Keep going!

Last month, Jason laid down the challenge to consider a New Year’s revolution that might transform your life and the community around you. He said: “How about resolving to be more humble, get angry less often, be less greedy, to spend more time and resources on relationships than on things?” I hope that lots of people have resolved to try exactly those kinds of things this year. A world of humbler, less angry, less greedy people would be better in all sorts of ways.

I imagine that most of us have, at some point or other, resolved to be different; to be kinder, or more thoughtful, or less selfish. Most of us will have felt the need to change at some point. It can be difficult to change outward habits like diet or exercise, but (given the impetus and encouragement) it’s often possible to can change these things by sheer force of will. However, it’s much harder to change our inward habits; the thoughts of our hearts, our attitudes to others, our selfishness.

You may have started this year hoping for a “New Year, New You”. But even if you’ve given up smoking and manage to go out running 3 times a week I wonder whether you’ve found that it’s still the same old you inside. There’s probably lots of good in there, but you may be aware that there are things about yourself that you’d like to change but can’t.

One of the central insights of Christianity is that human beings cannot pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. We are unable to change our hearts by force of will. We cannot make ourselves better people just by trying harder. We need God’s help – the term used is “grace”, the free gift of God at work in our lives.

Richard Foster gives the analogy of a farmer. She cannot make her crops grow, she can only create the right environment for natural forces to do their work. The same is true of us and one way of “creating the right environment” for growth is silence. If you want to change your heart this year, then I encourage you to spend 5 minutes in silence every day for a month. Start your 5 minutes with the words, “Change my heart, O God”, and see what happens. I believe that God will use those 5 minutes to perform the slow work of moulding you into the person God wants you to be. Try it!

This article was written for January 2018 parish magazines

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