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A Dirty Jar

By Michael Roop

I have a forward-looking personality. I tend not to struggle with nostalgia, nor do I relish tradition or take a lot of pictures. My mind is on the future. I see potential in everything. Always room to improve, become more efficient, more effective. I see things as they could be in the future given the right attention. While this protects me from being complacent, it also keeps me from the important task of reflection, from looking back to learn from the past.
As the calendar flips to 2021 today, my instinct is to look forward. To offer a list of practices that we should all pursue in the coming year. Ditch your resolutions, go for habit formation, and all that. But aware of the shadows cast by my God-given personality, I want to slow the roll a bit and offer my major takeaway from 2020.
Way back in March, we started talking about seasons of disruption as God shaking up the jar of our hearts. This allows us to see the true level of sediment that was previously settled on the bottom. The turbulence helps us recognize the subconscious thought and behavior patterns that have become part of our everyday lives.
When I look back at 2020, there is much more sediment in my heart than I would have guessed (despite my incredible aptitude toward humility and self-awareness). In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” And while I have certainly made sacrifices to follow Jesus, I see now that I had only partially accepted Jesus’ invitation.
Ironically, being the forward-looking personality that I am, it is my vision, my expectations for my future, that I am found withholding from Christ. As 2021 dawns, I am left to grapple with the fact that Jesus did not become a peasant baby to give me a comfortable, easy life where everything works the first time. He did not die to save me from the sins of others and make them all agree with me. He did not rise again to make me a celebrity pastor. It is precisely this vision of Future Mike that yet clings to life. 
Because God loves me and disciplines me as a son, He used 2020 to show me what I hadn’t yet seen. The deep and (until now) unsettled garbage in my heart is a quest for my own glory, not for God’s. A desire to be well known, well regarded, sought after. This vision for my future self has to die if I want to know the true and abundant life of Jesus. And I’ve been given the means to do it. 
For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. Romans 8:13
So before you start googling cheap gym memberships and 30-day cleanses, take some time to reflect on 2020. In a year of disruption, when the illusion of control was mercifully unmasked before our eyes, what is our loving Heavenly Father teaching us? Who or what do you idolize, expect, feel owed? Look carefully, honestly, and in the security of the gospel. If you’re like me, the answer might be different than you think.