When I was a sophomore in college, after the turn of the New Year, I decided that it would be a good thing to set some goals for the upcoming 12 months. After breaking my life down into every conceivable category and subcategory, I proceeded to set those goals. Seven journal pages of goals later, I was exhausted, and the rout was on. (Or so I felt.)
Perhaps you have had this experience. You enter the new year with zeal, make a bunch of resolutions, set a bunch of goals, and watch them vaporize days later.
There must be a better way.
In the years since then, my approach to the new year has changed substantially. I do not look at the upcoming year through the lens of “goal-setting” (though some goal-setting invariably plays a part in it). Rather, I look at the upcoming year through the lens of continuing to journey into the horizon of God’s beauty.
What do I mean by this?
I mean simply that we are made for God. Our time and talents, our intellect and resources, our “selves” and our relationships… all of these are made to be developed and stewarded in such a way that they reflect and contribute to the Good, the True, and the Beautiful… all of which come from God. Further, they are not mine. They are His (see Mt 25:14ff.), and will one day be returned to Him.
In what shape will I return them? Will they be broken and battered? Abused and squandered? Or will I – with joy – be able to present to God everything entrusted to me. “Look, Lord! Here is what belongs to you… and more!”
That can be a really daunting thought. But the good news here is that the Scriptures teach that as our “selves” are increasingly healed by the love and grace of God, we are moved more and more to a place of eagerly and continually presenting “our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–[which is our] spiritual act of worship” (Rom 12:1), for that is what love does–it gives oneself, and gives utterly. As the love of God is poured into our souls, seeping down into each and every crack and healing our resistance, it rebounds back to Him as an answering love through which, like the Beloved before her Lover, we unhesitatingly give ourselves away to Him. Which means, I take it, that the Day of reckoning for many of us will hold no surprises. We’d been giving Him everything all our lives. The Day will be joy beyond imagination.
How beautiful is that?
So when I approach the new year now, I don’t set goals (exclusively). I think about the love of God rebounding in my heart as an increasing self-giving as I journey further and further into his Beauty and Love. I think about my life moving more and more towards the deep integration of Heaven… asking myself how and in what ways that which has been given to me has stalled out on that journey, and what I might do to restart it.
- My self… am I becoming a self increasingly alive to all that God is, and to the world around me, or am I moving in the direction of chaos and disintegration?
- My intellect… is it growing and broadening and being sharpened for the good of men and the glory of God, or is it being squandered and used on foolish things?
- My talents… see above
- My resources… likewise
- My marriage… is it moving in the direction of a deepening friendship, trust, and intimacy that reflects that “naked and unashamedness” of Genesis, or is it becoming something else?
- My parenting… is it moving in the direction of respect, humility, wisdom, and thoughtful shepherding, or is it haphazard, sloppy, and lazy?
You get the idea.
God’s beautiful Kingdom is coming. May your life move ever more in the direction of it… may it become this year a clearer and more compelling anticipation of it.
Grace and peace to you.