It’s a New Year.
And there is a temptation with every New Year to make resolutions.
This year I am going to loose weight.
This year I am going to finds the new job.
This year I will prepare for my retirement.
And behind all those resolutions is a dangerous presumption…the presumption that the life that we have isn’t good enough.
The presumption then flows that if our life isn’t good enough then we have to be unhappy with our life.
The scientists have worked out what the most depressing day of the year is, can you guess?
It’s the third Monday in January.
I have a theory on that.
At the start of the year we are saying to ourselves…our lives are not what they should be.
And we have great resolutions about how this year is going to be different.
We are going to make changes and those changes are going to make us happy.
We are going to read our Bible more and pray more and have a better relationship with God.
We are going to be better at our friendships with others. We where horrified at all those people who are meant to be our friends, but the first time we contact them is when we write our Christmas cards to them. How could we let that relationship drift so much? So we are going to visit more and make sure that we spend quality time with our friends.
We are going to sort out our physical bodies. No more chubbiness when we look in the mirror. We are going to buy one of those machines that help us get fit. And we are going to be so fit that we can run ultra-marathons.
We are going to get our finances sorted out. No more living in debt, no more worrying about the next bill and how we are going to pay it, so we are going to start a savings account and make sure we have an a emergency fund.
And off we go on our conquest of the world and ourselves.
After a couple of weekends we are exhausted trying to keep it all up. And we can’t keep it up. And round about the third week in the year we realise we are loosing the battle.
So then we just give up.
And then we give up we get depressed.
It’s the third week of the year and we have realised that this year is going to be like every other year.
And as we go to work on the Monday, as we start the grinding routine that is going to be our future, we just get depressed.
All because of that temptation at the start of the year to make resolutions.
I want us to think differently.
I want us to stop thinking that the life that we have isn’t good enough. Stop thinking that if our life isn’t good enough then I have to be unhappy with our life.
Because behind all those thoughts is what a theologian called Thomas Merton called the idea that our life will be truly happy ‘when’.
The idea that we can’t be satisfied with our life just now because we have this idea in our head that our life can’t be happy until something else happens.
I will be happy when I get that one more thing that I want.
I will be happy when I get rid of that personality flaw.
I will be happy when I get the life that I have always dreamt it could be.
I will be happy when I am truly successful.
I will be happy when I learn to pray better.
I will be happy when I find the right person to live my life with.
I will be happy when my life is quieter.
I will be happy when I get that holiday I always wanted.
And the trouble with those thoughts is, that we spend so much time waiting for the ‘when’,
whatever that ‘when’ is,
that we don’t appreciate the ‘now’ that we have.
Don’t get me wrong, longing for better, and dreaming dreams, and having vision, is not a bad thing. Wanting to change our life is not a bad thing.
Look at me…
I arrived in Alva in 1997.
Do we honestly think I am the type of person that doesn’t want things to change?
That I came to the church 20 years ago and said to myself, this is perfect, I will keep everything just as it is? Our church has changed in so many ways…
We have projector systems and new hymn books.
We have worship groups and technical teams.
We have had members of the congregation go off to South Africa and teach nursing and care, others going off to India and South America, others building schools and toilets around the world, or protecting rain forests.
We have over 70 children in Zones causing chaos in our halls.
We have introduced informal communion, and Messy Church
We set up charities for the No 140 fair-trade shop, for Aid for Aids, for Youth Workers.
I am a change things kind of guy.
When I came back from the heart attack the Kirk Session set up a group to monitor the work that I do. This group can even talk to my wife behind my back and ask her what work she sees me doing.
Do we think they set that group up because they are worried that I am going to sit back because of the heart attack and do nothing and they want to check that I am working enough?
No, no one thinks that that is the type of guy I am.
I am a change person.
So I am not saying that we should look at our life and say, ‘I have to be satisfied with what I have and that’s it.’
What I am saying, is that while we wait and work for the perfect life, that shouldn’t stop us from appreciating what we now have.
Last year was a good year.
Last year was a year where I could have a lot of gratitude for what happened.
This was a year where I had a heart attack.
This was a year where one of my daughters started a Masters in the Open University and then discovered that they had misled her into thinking that the Scottish Government recognised that as an entry into teaching…so the last six months have been a waste of time.
This was the year that my son dropped out of university.
So my life isn’t perfect.
But I have so much also to be thankful for.
All the care that my daughter and I received from the NHS.
My son has a full time job that he is very happy in.
One of my daughters got engaged.
Another of my daughters went off to Rwanda to help school children over there.
All the friendships and care that I have.
The guy that rents my flat is from Nigeria, and every time I meet him he greets me with ‘God is good.’
And every time I see him I think to myself, ‘God is good.’
Thankfulness for what has already been given is the foundation for hoping for what is not yet.
I can hope for a full recovery because of all the friendships I have made at healthy hearts. All the care of the nursing staff and phsyios that have encouraged me to do more and more exercise.
I can hope for my children to have good lives because I have seen how they cope when life is a struggle. They don’t give in, they don’t fold. So if adversity strikes them I know they will work their way through it.
I can hope for the future of this church because I have seen how it always adapting, always seeking new ways to reach out, always caring.
I have seen how you help your neighbours who you can see, and those both near and far that you can’t.
I can see your hearts are in a good place, so when there is need, you have the ability to help.
A heart that is always unhappy for what it doesn’t have will never be truly happy.
A heart that starts from thankfulness for what it has, is a heart that can continue to grow.
So for today…
Let’s put aside our, ‘when this happens I will be happy.’
And our, ’if only this could be then I would be happy.’
And our, ‘when things get better I will be happy.’
And our, ‘as soon as I have this then I will be happy.’
Today let’s consider not what we want, but what we have.
To realise that God has generously been giving to us already.
And may the heaps of blessings that we have,
be the foundation for what we will receive.
Today, let’s say farewell to the ‘when we get.’ and be thankful for ‘what is’.