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What Newtown Taught Us: Love More, Worry Less

How’s that new year’s resolution thing working out for you?
I’ve never been a big fan of this once-a-year ritual. I guess it’s the whole “turning over a new leaf” syndrome that bugs me most.

People resolve to do things better or differently all the while knowing that it lasts about as long as those after-Christmas sales.

So why go through the motions of kidding yourself once a year? If you’re really serious about change, or a deeper commitment toward something or someone, then why not follow through when no one is looking or paying attention?

This has been my basic approach when it comes to new year’s resolutions – until this year.

December 14, 2012, changed something in me – as it did many people across our country. Twenty-six innocent victims in Newtown, Conn. Children. Teachers.

Why on earth? How could this evil happen? 

In the days that followed, people plastered Facebook, Twitter and the “letter to the editor” department with anger, sharp words, extremism, shock, horror, dumb ideas and some genuine human compassion.

You’ve heard it said, “The problem is guns! No, the problem is people! No, the problem is government! The real problem is culture! God has been kicked out of our schools! There are already too many laws!”

Actually, the problem – is me.

Amid all the pontificating and scrambling for easy solutions to large complex issues, the one thing I have some measure of control over is myself.

Aside from the terrible sadness for those grieving families, and the feelings of anger at the evil that took away precious lives, what later hit me like a ton of bricks is the stark realization that I don’t love enough and I worry too much.

It’s not that I don’t love people (after all it is in my job description) or that I sit around worrying about stuff all the time (just some of the time).

It’s more about being fully present in each moment in order to do what God put me here to do – to love, not worry.

One of the outcomes of that tragic day in December is the sobering reality that life is too fragile and sacred to waste on hate, apathy, indifference and worry.

There will be many fairly intelligent people debating and wrangling over what to do in order to make public spaces safer in the coming weeks and months.

We should pray that tangible steps can be agreed upon in a sensible manner that will help make our schools and communities safer places in which to learn and live.

We should all be willing to support steps for the common good, even if I don’t personally agree with every detail.

But let’s not kid ourselves. No amount of extreme legislation or extreme freedom will solve all our societal ills. It is ultimately a matter of the heart.

Therefore, I have resolved to love more and worry less.

It will be hard to measure whether I’m actually being successful or not. There will be old tendencies to break when life gets too busy, when things go wrong and when unplanned expenses arise.

But by the grace of God, I will choose to embrace each new day, spending more time loving my family and less time worrying about things over which I have no control.

Perhaps the stickiest part will come when I venture out to love those beyond my immediate circle.

God’s love does that. Christ calls us to love those whom we hold close and those whom we hold at arm’s length.

Scripture says that love is patient and kind; it’s not flashy or arrogant, rude or selfish. It’s even greater than faith and hope. (1 Corinthians 13)

God’s love is ultimately the most powerful and potent force in the universe, and it’s available to everyone. My task is to let it begin in me. That’s how we bring God’s kingdom on earth – one person at a time.

So if your “new year’s resolution” isn’t working out so well may I suggest an alternative? Love more, worry less. This will be my daily mantra in 2013.

Dennis Atwood is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Mount Olive, N.C. This column first appeared on his blog.