Only one thing is needed


I don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore. They rarely last until the end of January. If we were going to make a lifestyle change we could have done it any time we wanted to. But we didn’t.

Also people make too many resolutions. They set too many goals, so they set themselves up for failure, which, in turn, leads to bad feelings about ourselves. Why would we do that?

But we can do something to improve our life.

These days I tend to think more in terms of themes rather than goals. Goals are very specific and we can easily miss them. But themes are broader and easier to achieve.

At this time of year I do a sort of spiritual listening. I am listening for that small quiet voice. You may call it The Universe or your heart.

I like to think of it in more personal terms.

There’s a story in the Bible I really like. It was a bit like Christmas Day or one of those days when the whole family comes round for dinner. There was a lots to do – cooking, setting the table, tidying up, making sure everyone had drinks and a place to sit… on and on.

But in this story, Jesus is one of the guests. A woman called Mary is sitting listening to Jesus. Her sister Martha is playing the martyr and doing all the chores. She gets a bit cheesed off with her sister lazing about with Jesus.

But Jesus says Mary made the better choice. She was doing the spiritual listening. 

‘Only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’

– Jesus

But the other thing I notice is what Jesus actually said – ‘Only one thing is needed.’

We can start right there for 2015. Don’t make lots of resolutions. Only one thing is needed.

If we could actually make one quality change in our lifestyle this year, and establish that as being part of who we are, it would be far more valuable than trying to start (or drop) ten things and failing at them all.

So what is the one thing you think you should do this year? I can’t tell you what that is. You’ll need to listen to your heart, do the spiritual listening. We need a bit of solitude and space to hear. Go for a walk. Lie on the floor and meditate. Go for a swim. And be intentional about listening with your heart. Give it a day or three. When you get it, write it down.

I think I know what mine is already. I think I’ve known it for a long time but felt unable to do it. But this year, I think it’s the right theme for me.

There was a guy many years ago who had an amazing spiritual experience. The trouble was, every time he spoke about it, he got beat up, imprisoned or people attempted to kill him. He was left in a pool of blood several times – left for dead. He wasn’t the luckiest person either. He went on a ship and a storm came, wrecked the ship and the ship sank. He swam to shore. As he lit a fire for the survivors a snake came and bit him on the hand. Miraculously he survived. After all that, he could be forgiven if he turned to drink or drugs and gave up. But he didn’t.

He set his theme for the year.

He didn’t aim for lots of goals. He just did one thing.

In a letter to some friends he wrote:

‘One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on…’

Wow! The snake bite, the shipwreck, the muggings, the beatings, the false prison sentences – all the crap that had befallen him – he put it all behind him… and pressed on into the future, to be the best he could be.

His name was Paul. He wrote most of the New Testament in the Bible.

I haven’t been through what he went through but my life has had some pretty crappy moments. Sometimes I’ve been trapped in the past, weighed down with grief. But the past is the past. We can’t change it. We can only learn from it.

This year, as I do the spiritual listening, I think I can hear a thin whisper…

‘Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on…’

I can’t change the past but I am the author of the next chapter of my life. No one remembers the half time score.

What about you? Do you do the spiritual listening at this time of year? What could your one thing be?


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