I sit here on a cold January morning, with the sunlight beaming in the windows.The crisp, early light is a beacon of hope for the new day and the new year. It is fresh, clean, invigorating. Devotional books are scattered to my side, and I bask in the quiet refuge that is this room, before the children wake up – before the day emerges – before I begin again. Somehow the storm of the holidays has left me a little starved for the quiet spaces where my spirit can be refreshed and fed.
I stare at the piles of boxes of new gifts, wondering where it will all go. The refrigerator is still full of sumptuous fares, that now seem rather bilious and sickening. It is startling that after all the food and festivities, after saturating ourselves with every good thing we can stuff into our lives – the pleasures we indulge in – we are still hungry. Empty for something that we cannot provide for ourselves. After all the shopping, all the consumption, all the frenetic activity, still there is something more that we want.
In the quiet peace of this morning, seeking the things of the Spirit, I come across a passage that sums up this dichotomy. “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires.” (Romans 8:5) I’m not a huge fan of talking about the sinful nature, but I can easily identify with natural desires. It is easy for us to crave all the trappings of our culture and media over the holidays. We are inundated with messages of how to be more relevant, more attractive, more provocative, more fulfilled. “Live Mas” as one commercial puts it. (And isn’t that what we all want more of … life?) We are bombarded with the concept of more, and we consume that message, hungry for that one thing more. It is easy for our minds to get swept away, completely controlled by these desires – because as Romans says, they are natural to us. They are aphrodisiacs, meant to make us fall in love with all the world and most especially with ourselves. But we wake up e ungover by the headiness of the promises that failed to deliver. They are fools’ gold, imitation jewelry that in the end leaves an ugly tarnish on our fingers. “The mind of sinful man is death”…Ouch! We say we want life, but at the end of all our indulgences, we are left with something altogether different. Still there is something more.
Thankfully, Romans 8:6 continues, “a mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace” . And here it is…what we want most of all. These are not items I can buy, or accumulate, or acquire, yet they are deeply satisfying, soothing the hunger of the empty soul. Here, this morning, as I allow my mind to be controlled by the Spirit, I am flooded by something that is purer, richer and truer than anything I saw flash before my eyes in the glitz of the holiday season. And its promises are sure. It is the Spirit of the living God who comes to us in the midst of the glitz, the hoopla, the chintzy tinsel and the fake greenery. It is the joy of the the living Son who is purer and more beautiful than anything we tried to fabricate this season. And for all our finery, He comes to us to find and show us the true, beautiful and pure creation that we really are, what our lives really are, and where peace is really found.
So as I put away the glamour of the season, throw away the last vestiges of rich meals, and clean off the countertops, I pray for the new year to be one guided by the Spirit. For each of us, may our minds be controlled by the Spirit and therefore transformed and renewed (Romans 12:2) for the year ahead. God has promised life and peace to each one of us, and they are ours as we keep our focus on him and seek after his ways with all our hearts.
Happy New Year, and may God bless you abundantly with his Spirit, bearing much love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in your life this year. (Galatians 5:22-23)
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things… and the God of Peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9