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The Little Things That Steal Your Peace

This month, one of my friends is celebrating his one-year anniversary… of not buying video games.

It’s not that he has anything against video games—in fact, he loves them. But he had a sizeable collection of older games already amassed, and buying new ones was cutting into his finances and adding to family stress. So he decided to simply stop.

This might seem like a pretty minor, even trivial, New Year’s resolution to make. It’s certainly less impressive-sounding than resolutions like losing 50 pounds, or learning a new language, or running a marathon. But on reflection, it strikes me as the sort of New Year’s resolution that more of us should be making.

When we make resolutions, at the New Year or any other time, we tend to focus on big commitments that we perceive will improve our lives. Resolutions are typically new activities—things that we feel are missing from our lives or that we ought to be doing. But they also have a tendency to add to our lives. They give us new things to think about, focus on, and even worry about.

These are often very good things, and I’d never suggest that you shouldn’t embark on a resolution, however big, that you’re passionate about. But when it comes to cultivating your spiritual health, one thing I’ve noticed is that it’s the accumulation of all the little concerns in our lives that most gets in the way of more Bible reading, prayer, and reflection.

Our God is a God of peace. In Psalm 46, we are told that peace and stillness are appropriate places in which to contemplate our Creator:

Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth. — Psalm 46:10 (NRSV)

What are the little things—the minor habits, the small concerns, the trivial thoughts and activities that keep your mind spinning throughout the day, preventing your heart from settling down into a posture of peace? What little activities or obsessions eat into your quiet time with God, or cloud your day with a tiny bit of extra stress? What little things can you drop out of your life next year that tug at your mind and keep you from peace? Something that’s relatively easily cut out of your life, whose absence would leave you with a bit of extra energy to spend on the things that really matter?

For my friend, it was keeping up with the latest video games. For you, it might be a sports obsession that cuts into time with your kids, or obsessive Facebook checking, or a few TV shows you watch but don’t really need in your life, or checking in at work on the weekends when you don’t need to, or a Twitter account that is always occupying a corner of your mind.

By all means, consider those big, life-changing New Year’s resolutions—those can be blessings too. But as you think about what you want to do in 2013, take some time to also think about what you don’t want to do in 2013.

Filed under Christmas