I’m not cynical about New Year’s resolutions.
I mean, sure, a lot of us make them and a lot of us break them, and I know gym memberships spike in January only to wither into uselessness come March. But I am a goal-setter by nature: I have in me a drive to be always striving toward something. If I don’t have anything to achieve, reach for, work toward, I become restless and frustrated and bored. It’s part of how God made me.
To that end, in my day-to-day life I am a list-making, goal-accomplishing whirlwind. I have small daily to-do lists that I want to complete; I keep a list of monthly goals; and although they are less clear, I do develop one- and two- and five-year plans for the future, always with the caveat that God might have something completely different in mind for me. I do this with work (I want to have x project complete by y date), but I do it with pleasure, too (I want to have x thing written by y time or be able to play x song by y date).
But it’s a matter of conviction for me that I sometimes make and approach spiritual goals for my life with much less fervor and commitment. The thing is, my spiritual life needs goals. I want to grow closer to God; I want to develop new practices (or hone old ones) in getting closer to Him. I want to be better for Him and do more for Him; I want to love Him more and serve others more. But if I don’t make a plan for how to do that, if I don’t give myself a nudge in the direction of achieving it, I often won’t do anything at all. So I always make spiritual goals for the new year. I’ll share my three for the year:
1) Spend less time on the computer/internet. This is…not explicitly spiritual, at least on the surface. But it actually is. I am more world-aware and God-aware when I am not blindly surfing the net. I am more intentional about forging relationships with other people. I have more time to give. I become less irritable and feel less rushed. So, I want to try to walk away from the idol I’ve made of technology. And I have some specific and actionable ways to do this, including: a) taking a few days a week and keeping them as “offline” days (or as offline as I can be outside work!) and b) changing how I do guide my time when I am online.
2) Intentionally develop a local community of believers. This is the hard one. I do attend my local church regularly, but my husband and I still struggle with finding and keeping local Christian friends. The believing friends I do have either live too far away from me to meet regularly, or are dealing with life changes (i.e., a newborn baby) that make developing a deeper relationship difficult. All the small groups I might fit into meet when I’m at work. It’s been hard to establish and keep local Christian relationships. I want that to change this year, even if it means searching outside my church to do so. I’ve considered starting a local neighborhood prayer meeting when the weather becomes hospitable again – we’ll have to see. This is my “reach” goal.
3) Cultivate relationships with care. I have a lot of relationships that I care about, but I have been convicted lately that while I keep up with them all just fine, I don’t go the extra mile nearly often enough. What does it look like to really love and serve people close to me – above and beyond “expected” and “good?”
You’ll notice a few careful guidelines inherent in my goals. None of them are anything I can do by myself; they’re going to require my close dependence on God and His provision. They have risen from areas of personal conviction/guidance in my life that I’ve felt during prayer. They can be broken down into real and concrete steps and plans (so I don’t end up with something so pie-in-the-sky I can’t accomplish anything). And they’re flexible: no end dates, no times, just enough to get me started in the right direction.
As believers, we should grow accustomed to saying “if God wills” whenever we make a plan or a goal. After all, only God knows the future and His plans for us. But that doesn’t mean we should abstain from making goals at all – and in fact, the Christian life can be much the richer for them.
Do you have any goals or plans for your spiritual life this year?
One thought on “Making Spiritual Goals”
I am also a goal orientated person, not to the level you are though. I recently bought a notebook schedule for writers and as I filled in sections, I realized that though I ‘planned’ to spend time last year on writer education, I didn’t do much.
I also have been praying on a closer christian community and the beginning of December I went to a new group at church. I could have done it anytime in the last year but I didn’t think it was for me, I had other things on my schedule and didn’t want to take the time. After a couple of times there, I was praying about it on the drive home and God reminded me I had asked for closer christian friends.
It will take me awhile to have friends there, and I hate missing writing time, but right now, I believe it’s where God wants me.
I know God will find a way for you too. In fact, I looked for a group like you are proposing to start and I would have loved it.