Sitting in church, my gaze settled on a family I knew from my childhood, over twenty years ago when my parents first attended this church. They filed out of the pew in their various knit sweaters to go down to the altar and take communion together. It struck me that this family has been coming to this church together all this time. Twenty-five years, maybe more, of getting up on Sunday morning, pulling on their sweaters, sitting in these seats, singing these same songs. They’ve seen many congregants and pastors come and go, many iterations of the website, the floors refurbished, the logo changed. Their faithfulness moved me as I watched them gather.
As someone with many interests and diverse abilities, I am often compelled towards new experiences and challenges. It’s true that experiencing something new, whether it’s interesting food, a foreign language, a different culture, a new hobby, or a career change can spur growth and refine us as people. But I think novelty has become a compulsion for many.
Think of the person who regularly reinvents their hobby, their career, their brand, before ever accomplishing what they set out to do. The person who lives to travel, and nothing else. The person espousing strong opinions but not living in a way consistent with those values. These people are pursuing new things, places, or ideas not with a sense of calling or purpose, but out of a deficit of faithfulness. The flitting whims of our world lead us in circles. Faithfulness has a trajectory; it is a long journey with a destination.
I’ve struggled to practice faithfulness in many places in my life, but for whatever reason, CrossFit has stuck with me. I have shown up to the gym, day in and day out, wherever I went all over the country, for the past decade. Through snow and ice and dark Alaskan winters, through the overwhelming bone-tired feeling coming off a 24-hour shift, through deployments, through busy schedules, through heartbreak. So many of you do the same.
The rewards of this faithfulness have been immeasurable. These years have given me friendship, health, and adventure. Mental fortitude and physical strength. An outlet for anger and sadness,and a place to develop resilience that I use in every aspect of my life.
What would happen in my life if I practiced faithfulness like this in my studies, in my relationships, in my hobbies? How much more quickly I would learn to play piano. How much more readily my friends would trust and rely on me.
Time is teaching me that faithfulness is the daily fuel that takes you down the road you’ve chosen. It is what keeps you moving forward when the fog rolls in and obscures your vision for the future.
We are at that lovely time of year where motivation surges, fresh ideas swarm, and our routines are imbued with a renewed sense of hope. Many recommit to exercise, eating well, getting enough sleep, learning a new language, spending less, or whatever else has fallen away.
But these feelings fade, and when they do, many slip back into their old habits—skipping the gym, eating carelessly, watching TV, overspending. This phenomena is increasingly mocked and the evidence used to dismiss the practice of making resolutions.
But the truth is, there’s nothing wrong with trying to change.What’s missing is the practice of faithfulness. Waking, living, and laying down knowing we are on a long journey rather than a short stroll. As our new year motivation fades, may we all be encouraged to remain steadfast in our work, relationships, and personal goals. As Jim Elliott, missionary and martyr, prayed, “Lord, give me firmness without hardness, steadfastness without dogmatism, love without weakness.”