I love these simply awful answering machine messages:
- “Hello, I’m not here right now. In fact, I’m out getting a new parakeet. If you leave a message after the beep, I’ll be sure to get back to you. Oh, and by the way, a word of advice: Never try to clean a parakeet cage with a vacuum cleaner.”
- “I’m sorry, but you have reached an imaginary number. Please imagine a real number and try again.”
- “Hello there. I’m not answering the phone right now, because I’m trying to avoid someone. Leave a message… and if I don’t call back, it was you.”
- “Hi! I’m sorry, but I’m trying to break the record for the ‘most calls missed.’ If it’s an emergency or your dying or something, please hold on until the record is broken and I’ll call you back.”
Did you catch all those “try” phrases? I’ve been thinking a lot about that word, and I have a completely different perspective on New Year’s resolutions this year. It begins with an attitude adjustment. Let me explain…
Teaching little children new things is a study in encouragement. We coax them to do new thing by saying, “Just try it.” I think of the old Life cereal commercial: Three brothers at breakfast, and two decide to shove a bowl of cereal toward the third brother (the youngest), prodding him to “try it.” Little Mikey ends up loving the cereal. (I tried something similar with one of my sons with little success. He still hates broccoli, I think.)
We encourage kids to try new foods … try new hobbies … try new sports. It’s what kids do. They “try” things.
But when we’re more mature, we realize success in life takes more than just “trying” a lot of things. In the secular world we see the foolishness of “try” in the Star Wars movie. Old Yoda said to Luke Skywalker ~ “Do or do not. There is no try.” Try is hard to measure, and sometimes it equals a lack of commitment. Think about it… when you say to someone, “I’ll try to ____(whatever)” … do you really mean it? If nothing else, you’re not showing much excitement about the prospect!
A few years ago, I cut out the word “overwhelmed” in my vocabulary. It colored how I thought about life. I couldn’t figure out a way to deal with “overwhelmed”? Today, I might say I’m “time challenged,” or there’s “too much on my plate right now.” I can do something about those problems. I can change my schedule, delegate or eliminate some things. It’s the same with the word “trying.” Instead of saying “I’ll try,” I now substitute the words “choose” or “plan” or “strategize.”
Instead of making a long list of resolutions this year, how about making just one … Resolve that you will obey God whenever He prompts you in any area of life. It takes off all the pressure to perform. It allows you to just rest day by day in God’s guidance and wisdom for your life.
Let me give you some examples of how that works.
Weight Loss – We say, “I’m going to try to lose weight.” Try? What does that look like? [Imagine the grunting and intense expressions.] It sounds defeated before we even begin. It sounds like a hopeless cause with a happy face.
But what happens when we say, “I’m going to create some strategies to lose weight. I’m going to make choices that will enable me to slim down and get healthy.” That sounds like a plan and it’s measurable, right? We might write down what we eat, count calories or Weight Watcher points, change what we stock in our refrigerator and pantry, join a gym – all positive strategies. There’s some determination there as well as strategies to follow.
But then, take it all up a notch. After you’ve made the plan—and a plan is a good thing—you relax and say, “Lord, speak to me every day about this area of my life, and I will obey you in whatever you say.” At that point, you’ve gone from fruitless trying… to making strategies … to resting in and responding to God! Doesn’t that make more sense and seem like reasonable effort?
This is true in any area of life.
How much better to say, “I have a new financial plan that will help me get out of debt, and I’m going to make some tough-but-positive, intentional choices.” And we pray, “Lord, I need your help to follow wise financial counsel. Help me listen to your voice concerning the choices and purchases I make.”
Instead, we say something like, “I’m going to learn how to practice the ‘one anothers’ of scripture with my friends and family… and I’m going to choose to obey God.” (You know the one anothers, don’t you? Love one another, encourage one another, forgive one another, serve one another … more than 20 one anothers to practice in our daily relationships. And each one is an intentional choice.)
Practicing those one anothers isn’t always easy, because feelings ~ “I deserve this” or “I don’t deserve this” ~ get in the way. So we pray, “Lord, help me to love others the way You do… Show me in every circumstance of life how to relate to my family and friends, and give me the courage to follow and obey You.”
Spiritual Growth – For the Christian, spiritual New Year’s resolutions always seem to be “biggies.” We say, “I’m going to try to read the whole Bible this year,” or “I’m going to try to pray more,” or “I’m going to try to memorize scripture.” There’s that word “try” again. And the truth is, all that trying won’t take us far … maybe into February.
How much better to …
- Find a scripture reading plan to read through the Bible (or even one book of the Bible) and ask God for an accountability partner. Post a checklist of chapters read where at least one other person will see it … (not to brag, but to encourage us to read).
- Create a prayer list for our computer (or somewhere we will really use it) and ask God to bring us things to pray about—maybe different people/topics each day.
- Commit to memorizing four scriptures each month and ask God what to memorize because He knows what we will need to use in the days ahead.
In the Bible, Joshua was tired of the Israelites trying to live life their own way. He told the Israelites, “Choose you this day who you will serve” (Joshua 24:15). Joshua knew there comes a point when we must stop playing games ~ a moment we choose. Maturity seeks God daily for clear direction and makes wise, intentional plans and decisions.
Remember: You can move from fruitless trying … to making new choices … to resting in and responding to God!
What is God saying to you about your choices for the New Year? Plan, choose, act, rest, obey… “There is no try.”