So we have had a month to see how our “new starts” have fared, and if studies are correct, most of those new starts are old news for most people. I have never been big on New Year’s Resolutions. Is it laziness? Maybe. Or maybe it is my lack of interest in fading trends. Either way, I do hope that each year I have improved in some way, and of particular importance to me, that I have grown closer to who God wants me to be.
Measuring spiritual growth can be tricky, however. Did I give more to those in need? Did I read my Bible and attend Mass more days this year than last year? Did I spend more time in prayer? Did I scream at my children less, revealing a changed heart? How do we measure something that can be so hard to pin down?
We each have our own faith journeys, and how we measure this success is probably different for each person, and even different for us individually at different phases of our lives. In my twenties, I was a missionary in China. Every day, I would wake up, go on a run, which also doubled as my prayer time, and then clean myself up before spending time reading the Bible and journaling about what God was teaching me.
I am now the mother of six children and if I can take fifteen minutes to read the Bible, that is a pretty good day. Does it mean that I was a better Christian then, than I am now? Some might say that. But I will tell you that the things that God teaches me each day as I deal with toddler tantrums and teenage angst are deep in my soul and challenge me in ways that I never saw coming in my twenties.
In a recent teaching over Advent, I was challenged to consider what my Christmas gift to Jesus was. But this gift needed to impact another person, because without impacting another person, how could you see the reality of this gift? This really challenged me. I can walk around asking God to make me more holy, but if this holiness does not impact another person, then it has not become real. God challenged me by showing me that my relationship with one of my children was not what it should be. Was I willing to humble myself and admit that I had as much to do with that as my child? Everything inside me wanted to say no, but in the end, I realized that to resist was to resist what the Holy Spirit wants to do in me and in that relationship.
In John 3:30, John the Baptist speaks these beautiful words, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” The heart of these words is humility. Am I willing to admit I am wrong? Am I willing to put aside my agenda and be open to what God is doing? Am I willing to see others as more important than myself and to have my decisions reflect that? My mother has always told me to not pray for patience. Because God doesn’t just give you patience, He gives you opportunities to actually show that patience.
I feel the same about humility. The minute I start asking for humility, I am given plenty of chances in which I have to show humility, and that often leaves me feeling somehow wronged or degraded. But if Jesus, the Son of God, could live on this earth exuding humility, why would I want anything less? If I want to be humble before God, I must reveal that humility with those around me, no matter how challenging that may be. And if I truly want to share the light of Christ to the world, whether that be in a different country, in my ministry, or in my home, humility must be my mark.
So this year, should I give more to those in need? Yes, because those lives are as or more important than my own. Will I read my Bible, pray and attend Mass more? Yes, because I am in dire need of strength from God, and I will fail without Him. Will I scream less at my children? Yes, because the love and care I give my children reflects that love and care that God shows me, even when I don’t deserve it. But if a heart of humility is not behind all these things, they will merely be a check-off list that shows my OWN strength. And while I know that my own strength and ability have very real limits, that which comes from God can overflow in my life in miraculous ways.
Kasey Carty Jordan is a former missionary to China and currently serves in youth ministry with her husband Kurt at their Catholic parish. The Jordans reside in Monticello with their six, soon-to-be seven, children.