The year at a glance

31 12 2011

Would you want to look like this man?  He is AJ Jacobs and his Before and After illustrate his experiment which became a book – The year of living biblically: one man’s quest to follow the Bible as literally as possible.

It is a fascinating account and a great read – funny, extreme, at times poignant.  I recommend it.

As in real life, so in Jacobs’ quasi life – there are highs and lows.  A high that he doesn’t expect comes when he starts to pray for other people  – “I love those prayers. To me they’re moral weight training. Every night I pray for others for ten minutes…It’s ten minutes when it’s impossible to be self-centred…I do feel myself becoming a slightly more compassionate person.”

But there are the lows.

“If my spirituality could be charted like the NASDAQ, the general trend so far is a gradual rise, but there are many valleys, and I’m in a deep one now. It’s making me lazy. I forget to put on my fringes, and I tell myself, well, what’s the big deal ? I’ll put them on tomorrow.”


Those of you who have been with me this year will know that I have been following a plan.  Here’s a reminder: I set out to investigate the truth (or otherwise) of the claim that, “Life works better if you live it God’s way.”

To do this I decided to read a section of the Bible each day in an attempt to find out what “God’s way” is.  I followed a plan provided by WordLive so that my reading was not random and so that I didn’t just pick and choose parts I liked.  That was relatively easy.

The difficulty has been making changes to my life so that what I read impacts me. Writing my blog has helped me process things (Absence makes the heart…) and I’m grateful to those of you who have commented and talked with me about what I write.  But the implementation has been down to me.

There have certainly been times when, like AJ, I was lazy, with a “what’s the big deal attitude.”  And to my surprise I shared his experience that taking action led to a change of heart.  (I’m glad that I didn’t know about his experiment until December – the challenge to keep all the biblical laws would have been a step too far, not to mention the beard!)

Taking action is not an end in itself, though; it’s the change of heart that counts.  That’s what matters to God (Forgettings).  I can take all the action I like, but if it is so that I can tick boxes, forget it (Clipboards, cardigans and cuddles). 

So, at the end of the year, there’s no spectacular Before and After. I look much the same as I did in January, but I like to think I’m making progress in living well. (Perhaps you’d better ask those who live with me if that’s true or if it’s self-delusion.) I’ve decided that the experiment is worth extending for another year.  I have a few amendments up my sleeve, but they may stay there.  We’ll see.  For now I leave you with words that I read this morning –

Be strong, do not fear; your God will come.” (Isaiah 35:4)

Buy AJ's book




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