In one of the outtakes of the running documentary, ‘Running the Sahara’, a central character is chatting with the producer, Matt Damon.
Damon is marvelling at the ability or insanity of running day after day across sand dunes in infernal heat. He quips to one of the runners “I struggle to log ten miles in one hit”. The reply is measured and laconic, “you just need to reconfigure your relationship with pain”.
It’s a line that’s had plenty of replays amongst the crew with which I run. “Oh, that was tough? You just need to configure your relationship with pain”.
As people across the globe take the opportunity that the turning of a new year affords to create possibilities and resolutions, aspirations and ambitions, there’s wisdom to found in the words of that crazy runner of the Sahara. Not so much with regards to pain, but with the reshaping of our relationship with different things.
Sometimes configuring requires a tweak, sometimes a hard reboot. Sometimes a dial down, other times a switch on or off. Still other times, the use of one of those to create the possibility of the other.
There are moments we’re ‘gifted’ hard reboots that aren’t necessarily of our choosing, but I’ve found the turning of a year is an irresistible opportunity for healthy reflection.
I wouldn’t throw this out there as a blanket recommendation, but I’m beginning the year by turning the switch off a few things. Not forever and not necessarily for long, but as a conduit. I’m doing it to help me configure my relationship with those things.
They’re not things I necessarily want to switch off (couldn’t if I wanted to), but for some personalities – perhaps mine’s one of them – it can be useful to do a hard reboot to reconfigure to levels of sustainable health.
If you’ve been smoking a pack a day, a 10% reduction probably isn’t your ultimate goal but, if you want to lose a couple of kilograms, a 10% caloric reduction maybe just the thing you’re after.
We develop strange relationships with things that go unchecked.
Most of us, given an opportunity to choose more time reading versus more time on social media would want to the scales to fall to reading. Unchecked, the result can be oppositely and profoundly imbalanced. Given the choice of introspective self-criticism or to be strengthened by the Holy Spirit in our inner being, most of us who have tasted the latter would forever eschew the former. Left to our own devices, though, and without continual configuring, we tend to self-sabotage. Not because we want to, just because it’s the places to which we mindlessly resort.
It’s why Paul begins Romans 12 with an appeal. A plea. A push towards wisdom and wholeness.
I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Daily reconfigure your minds according to the values of the Kingdom of which you are now a citizen. Reset your words and actions from their old default and reestablish them in good ground.
Paul gives the instruction to make renewal a daily thing because it’s slow work that demands our continuous spiritual attention.
Going cold turkey on some things may be a good start to configuring, but it’s not always a possibility. Gradual reformation and slow work is usually the pattern. But a new year is a good pause to consider what might demand a hard reboot and what could do with a redefinition or repurposing.
Whichever it is for you, I hope you seize the turning of a year as another opportunity to revisit the patterns that you’ve formed with a willingness to consider whether they draw you into spacious places of grace and holiness and places of potential reformation. Or whether they demand the jettisoning of former things.
There are far greater heights to which you may soar in 2017, but they might just be facilitated by the reconfiguring you’re prepared to undertake right now. Perhaps not the sexiest way to kick off a year, but years generally last longer than a couple of weeks.