As you read this column, I suspect you share my feeling of having settled into the new year. Work has resumed a more typical rhythm (as compared to the holidays), the kids are back in school, and we are no longer greeting one another with “Happy New Year!” — that seems belated at this point. Many New Year’s resolutions have now been modified or abandoned (though I wish success to you if you are still on track!).
Perhaps, however, it’s not too late to give some serious thought to our choices and lifestyles. Indeed, the message of scripture is that we should constantly assess, pray about — and where necessary, revise — how we live. Jesus taught us to pray for God’s will to be done in our lives as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). The apostle Paul admonishes us, “Be careful, then, how you live, making the most of the time (we have on earth)” (Ephesians 5:15-16). And the psalmist repeatedly warns us to stay on the right path, that is, the path that God wants for our lives. In short, we are to live as Jesus did, using our time to help and serve others.
A colleague in the ministry told the story of being invited to an Air Force base in San Francisco to fill in for their vacationing chaplain. He was met at the airport by a sharp-looking young airman named Ronald. The two of them set off for baggage claim, but they had hardly gone a dozen steps when Ronald stopped to help a woman whose luggage had slid off her cart. They started again, only to have Ronald stop to lift a little boy so he could get a drink from a water fountain. As they parted Ronald called, “So long!” in a cheery voice. As they left the building, he held the door for a man who was struggling with two large shopping bags. The minister said he was beginning to feel like the priest who passed by on the other side while Ronald was the Good Samaritan. As they walked across the street, they approached a young woman standing on the curb. She looked somewhat distressed, so Ronald asked, “May I help you?” She said, “I’m trying to get to Oakland.” He took her over to a rack containing brochures for the rapid transit system, took one out, and explained in detail how to get across the San Francisco Bay to Oakland.
As they got on the freeway, the minister asked, “How did you learn to live like that?” “Like what?” Ronald asked. The minister said something about being nice and helping people. Ronald said, “Well, of course, I’m a Christian!” His inflection and tone implied, “Why would you even ask such a question?” But he went on: “During the Gulf War, I served in a detachment that cleared mine fields. I had two close friends wounded, and I saw two Saudi soldiers blown to pieces right before my eyes. I began to realize that my next step could be my last step, so I’d better get all I can out of this one. I just try to live a lot between steps.”
The Bible says: Make sure that our steps are on the right path, the path God intends for our lives, and then live a lot between the steps.