On Drifting

Another year in the books for me. Last week ushered in my 36th birthday and birthdays lend themselves to reflection, so here I am, reflecting. The past year has seen many positive changes for me: exercising and losing weight, going on a much-needed retreat, heeding God’s call and stepping down from my ministry role to focus on being a mom, moving to a closer church & diving right in to a group in spite of my fears, rediscovering my love for reading. With most of those decisions, I picked a path and moved in that direction.

The problem I’m seeing now with some of those positive changes is drifting. What I achieved is not where I’ve stayed. I’ve definitely drifted in my efforts to be healthier. A pound here, a pound there. Two steps forward, one step back. It starts to add up and if I just continue to drift, I’ll end up right back where I was [or worse].

BUT I DON’T WANT TO!

I’ve noticed that our life’s journey is more like being on a boat in the open water than a path. The course is not clearly marked. There’s a million different directions you can go in at any given time. And we drift. The currents actually move us from our chosen course and we have to actively fight to get where we’re headed. Pausing in our efforts, even for a short while, leave us surprisingly far from where we were.

Thankfully, drifting far isn’t a must. A boat’s answer is to drop anchor, and there are anchors we can choose to minimize drifting:

  1. Honesty – Correcting a drift starts with an honest assessment of where we are. I have to know where I am in order to figure out where I need to go. For my weight, I have to get back on the scale. But that’s just me. You have to figure out what it looks like for whatever area you feel like you’ve drifted. It’s usually far worse than we’ve rationalized, so it takes brutal honesty. Once we come to terms with where we are, we can move forward.
  2. Diligence – I chose diligence rather than discipline, since it sounds like a virtue instead of a punishment. Same idea. It seems overly simple, but when we drift, we need to go back to what works. Writing down what I eat every day? Tedious, but it works. Doing a SOAP journal daily to connect with Jesus? Difficult, but it works. Making time to spend with loved ones? A hassle, but it works. The things that originally moved us in the direction we needed to go still have power. When we start to drift, we’ve often quit the things that were most helpful. That’s like throwing out your map and saying, “I have no idea how to get there.” Follow the course you’ve already charted and you’ll get there one step at a time.
  3. Community – I’ve seen the importance of this anchor in the last year more than ever. Having the right people around me helps me to be honest when they ask the tough questions I’m afraid to ask myself. It also helps me to be diligent by exposing me to new tools and others’ experiences. They encourage and believe in me when I don’t. Life without community is like sailing without a crew. I can do a lot on my own, but the journey is tedious and overly difficult. Why would I do that to myself?
  4. Grace – The last and most important anchor is grace. Drifts are a fact of life. Without grace, I would have to live in fear that God would stop loving me every time I messed up. Grace creates a safe place for me to be honest. Grace encourages me to be diligent because Jesus tells me, like the woman caught in adultery, “…Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” Grace empowers me to press on because it means the Holy Spirit is living in me, giving me what I need daily. Grace creates a community that fosters change. Of all the other anchors, I need this one the most because it reminds me that no matter where I’ve been, no matter how far off I’ve strayed today, I don’t have to stay there. The Gospel tells me that God specializes in making things new and glorious, even with the rawest of materials, including especially us.

I’m looking forward to year 37. With the anchors of honesty, diligence, community, and grace, I believe that I will be more of the person Jesus is calling me to be every day. I pray that you’ll join me in this so that we’d be able to celebrate together how far we’ve come with Jesus’s power and for his glory.

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