Setting Up My Year in Christ – Christ’s Call to be the Center of my Life

January 1, 2023


Keep Christ at the Center: Why?

We can cite numerous theological reasons to put Christ at the center of life. But I find it quite effective to look at the alternatives. Why center my life on Christ? Well, if not on Christ, then what becomes my center?

Do I want to center my life on the news cycle? If I want to remain angry, fearful, frustrated, and despairing, then I can watch and listen to news day in and day out—especially from my chosen sources—and become obsessed with the news and the commentary of those who want to influence my decisions. These activities can offer me a sense of wisdom and power, but mostly they will keep my spirit stirred up in unhealthy ways.

Do I want to center my life on my family? U.S. culture has made an idol out of the American Family, and if I follow the culture’s lead, then my every breath, effort, and dollar will go toward making certain that my family is happy 24/7. I don’t want my family to lack any material thing. I want my children to have only the best clothing, activities, and school experience. I don’t want my family to be uncomfortable or bored—ever. I constantly work toward giving my family the best of everything. This will lead to disappointment and exhaustion, but many of us choose to make our families the center of life.

Do I want to center my life on my work and accomplishments? We have an abundance of resources for self-absorption, don’t we? Self-help books and courses, seminars to sharpen our work skills, retreats and spas to pamper ourselves, programs to help us plan better, live better, be better, make more money, work more effectively, market our skills more successfully. It makes sense to become better at what I do and to care for myself. But when what I do and who I am becomes the center of my motivation, joy, and satisfaction, I have entered an endless loop of striving, self-judgment, and ever-increasing hunger for success and affirmation.

Do I want to center my life on being a good person and making the world better? Wow, this sounds just right, doesn’t it? Why wouldn’t I want to be a good person and improve the world? That’s very Christian, too. The problem is that I am making central the results rather than the source. I need God’s help to “be good,” and I make the world a better place by participating with what God is already doing. When I set out to become good and do good—with little regard for how that actually happens—then I have set myself up for frustration and burnout. There’s always one more good cause to work for and one more good personal habit to form. It’s never-ending.

We forget that the words of Jesus happened in real time and with real people. We hear his words as pithy teachings worthy of hanging on the wall. But whatever Jesus said needed to be said—to the original people he spoke to and to us today. 

Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5

Jesus knew that the disciples were motivated and would work hard. But he also knew that they must understand that their source of wisdom, power, strength, and love was his own life, in the Father’s life. They must learn how to abide, how to rely on him, trust him, continually turn to him, and take strength from their relationship to him and the Father and the Holy Spirit. We call this theology, but Jesus knew that this is the reality. We need the ongoing interaction between our spirit and the Divine. This is not simply spiritual improvement but our very life.

Do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:31-33 

There’s a place for keeping up with the news, caring for our family, doing self-work, and contributing to the world’s welfare. But putting any of these at the center of life will drain us rather than sustain us. Let’s explore together how to make Christ our living center in daily life.

Going Deeper

Consider registering for Living with Christ: An Ignatian Discernment Process for Intentional Living by Becky and Chris Eldredge. This four-week program will help you to pray, to listen and to plan your year with Christ.

Read a previous blog post by Becky, Bits of Ignatian Wisdom; Life-Changing Encounter with Jesus

Read Re-Situate Your Life by Becky

Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

Vinita Hampton Wright recently retired from more than thirty years as a book editor. She has also served as a speaker and facilitated retreats and workshops on writing, creativity, prayer, and Ignatian spirituality. She has written various fiction and non-fiction books, including the novel Dwelling Places with HarperOne, Days of Deepening Friendship, The Art of Spiritual Writing, and Small Simple Ways: An Ignatian Daybook for Healthy Spiritual Living with Loyola Press, and most recently Set the World on Fire: A 4-Week Personal Retreat with the Female Doctors of the Church with Ave Maria Press . Vinita is a student and practitioner of Ignatian spirituality, and from 2009 to 2015, she blogged at Days of Deepening Friendship. For the past few years, she has co-led small groups through the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises. She continues to write and now serves as a spiritual director from her home in Springdale, Arkansas with her husband, two dogs, and a cat.

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