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?