There’s something about the start of a new year that beckons us to set goals. According to the website History.com, the custom of setting New Year’s resolutions began in ancient Babylon 4,000 years ago. Each March people celebrated a 12-day religious festival and made promises to their gods. Those who kept them were assured favor in the coming year.
The New Year offers an opportunity to reflect on what we’d like to change. In the West, it’s often our health habits. But what if instead of measuring our midriffs and kicking off another diet, we measured our lifestyle? That’s the prospect authors Sarah Arthur and Erin Wasinger offer in their book, “The Year of Small Things: Radical Faith for the Rest of Us” (Brazos Press, 2017).
Releasing in January, the book breaks down one year into 12 chapters. Although there’s no reason to read only one chapter per month, each corresponds to a monthly goal that the authors set for their families. Chapters include: Covenantal Friendship, Radical Finances, Reclaiming Spiritual Habits, Holy Time, Sustaining Creation, Unselfish Care and Just Living.
In challenging others to live simple, Biblically-centered lives, Arthur recounts the three years she and her husband spent sharing an inner-city house with people overcoming transience and drug addiction. From there, they moved to a comfortable suburb, slipping into a life of American ease. But something was missing.
“We began to realize we had to reclaim and live the practices that had become core to our understanding of what it means to follow Jesus,” Arthur writes in her introduction. “We had to translate some of the practices of radical faith—things like simplicity, hospitality, sustainability, reconciliations, justice—right here, right now.
Because if we were struggling against the false vision that comfort, safety, wealth, material possessions, pleasure, and leisure can bring ultimate fulfillment, then most likely other Christians had been struggling too.”
And so Arthur’s family banded together with the Wasingers to “loosen their grip on the American dream.” After reading books about a Christian movement known as “new monasticism,” the two couples decided to implement 12 marks of monastic living, one per month, over the course of a year.
They began by sharing a meal together once a week, along with their five young children, to discuss their journey toward simpler, more generous living. Each chapter includes suggestions for further reading and discussion questions. Full of hurdles and hang-ups, the couples’ journey is a great way to kick off your own goals toward living a more Biblically centered life.
Some you may be doing already. Others may seem beyond your comfort zone. Either way, in this thoughtful, provocative book, Arthur and Wasinger offer a practical, challenging guide to pursue one year of small changes that will loosen your grip on the American dream and expand your heart.
Meadow Rue Merrill writes and reflects on God’s presence in her everyday life from a little house in the big woods of Mid-coast Maine. Her memoir, “Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores,” releases in May 2017.