Happy New Year, Ladies! I've been reading your comments about the changes you want to make in this next year of your journey and, honestly, just when I thought I couldn't be any more impressed with you, I am! After your solitary time, you realized that:
* Jesus can totally empathize with everything you're going through because he was, as Christmas reminds us, human. (Thanks, RACHEL)
* It would be great if we treated every day as a New Year's Day, putting the past behind us and making goals and trying to make ourselves better people (Thanks, PAIGE)
* What better time than the New Year to rededicate ourselves to reading the Bible and living more like Christ wants us to, for the only thing that really lasts? Why not pick a theme for each day and stick to it? (Thanks, ANNABELLE)
* This year, why not LIVE your life instead of Facebook it? (MANY thanks, EMII!)
All of you who posted have goals for the year that I know God totally approves of (and probably shaped in your mind and heart, come to think of it). But the one thing almost everybody said was:
"I just don't know if I can stick to it."
Oh, I hear you! How many diaries have we all started on January 1, only to lose track of them by Valentine's Day? Weight loss programs and gyms have record new memberships in the month of January, but only about 30% of those people are still enrolled six months later. Even Bible study classes that start right after the New Year are usually packed, and then dwindle in attendance as the winter drags on. What happens to our good intentions, do you think?
I have a thought about that (though I'll want to hear yours, too, of course.) I've known if for a long time, but it came to me yesterday when I was sitting with my daughter (who is now even BIGGER than she was 10 days ago when the picture above was taken; BTW, don't those homemade cinnamon rolls of hers look scrumptious? They WERE!). Here's what came to me.
About a year and a half ago, Marijean and her husband Brian set a "goal" of having a baby. As most of you know, she had three miscarriages before it was discovered that she has an autoimmune disorder that, left untreated, made it impossible for her to carry a baby. With great medicine, she's been able to keep Baby Maeryn in utero, and in no longer than 20 days from now, she'll be born. Goal accomplished -- they'll have a baby.
Of course, they didn't meet that goal all by themselves. Not only did they have medical help, they had God's help. God created the miracles of conception and gestation and birth, which is a good thing because if we had to control all the hormones and cell divisions and developmental stuff, the human race would have come to a screeching halt long ago!
Besides that, after a certain point, even if they had wanted to abandon their goal, they couldn't have. That's one of those decisions that, once in process, can't be changed. Right now Marijean has no choice but to stick to it -- in spite of the heartburn and the back aches and the kicking going on in there that has her convinced she's going to give birth to a Rockette. She and Brian have made a huge commitment and there just is no turning back. If they are like every other set of parents who have ever brought a child into this world, there are going to be two-o'clock-in-the-morning moments when they're going to question that decision, but they will definitely "stick to it."
So -- what if we made our New Year's decisions that carefully? What if we only chose those things that are truly going to change our lives? What if they were things that we couldn't do without God? What if they were things for which we had no choice but to stick to them? What if not sticking to them would mean there would be no new life?
For instance, one of my goals for 2011 is to be more conscious of God in my daily life. I have special quiet time every morning and another quiet time at night before I turn out the light. But in between, sometimes I go for hours without actually thinking about God in my conscious mind, and I just wonder how much better I could serve, how much better a person I could be, and how much happier and more at peace if I, as Brother Lawrence put it, "practiced the presence of God."
That's a tough one, because unlike quitting smoking or losing twenty pounds or reading the Complete Works of Shakespeare, it isn't a tangible thing you can check with the number of cigarettes left in the pack or the number of pounds that show up on the scale. Applying the questions, though . . .
Would this goal truly change my life? Ya think? I'd make better decisions, maybe move more people toward Christ without realizing it, definitely be a better friend -- and that's just for starters.
Could I accomplish this without God? Now that's a no-brainer! It's all ABOUT God. God will decide whether to nudge me or poke me or speak to me in a still, small voice. There's no way I'm jist going to say, "I will be conscious of God," and magically pull it off. This is totally going to be a team effort.
Do I have a choice whether I stick to this? It might seem like it, but once you make a vow to God (rather than just to yourself or to someone else), breaking it becomes a pretty huge thing. Fortunately, God wants me to reach this goal as much as I do. God will remind me, get me back on track, especially if I employ spiritual practices designed to make me more aware of God's presence (or God will just plain show off as he's doing this very minute with the sunset outside my office window -- spectacular).
Would not sticking to this mean there would be no new life for me? I don't even have to ponder that. There is no New Year, new me, new ideas, new ways of looking at things without a deeper awareness of God. There is no new creation without the Creator.
So I think the secret to sticking to our New Year's resolutions is not self-discipline or beating ourselves up every time we slip up. I think it's in the formation of the goals to begin with. Are they worth setting? Do they mean enough for us to want them more than anything? Are they things we know God wants for us and wants to participate in our having? As the passage from John that I read this morning says, "I (Jesus) came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."
If the goals are big and life-changing, we're going to need help and lots of it. As PAIGE pointed out, we seem to have "pairs of goals on here. It seems like every person has someone else that's doing the same thing. Wouldn't it be cool if we grouped up into little accountability groups?"
That sounds like an amazing idea to me, and several of you concurred in your comments. So why don't we do this:
1. Answer the questions in green for one of your goals for the year. You don't have to post your answers, and if you do want to share, just give us a brief summary.
2. Do tell us what your goal is, and I'll post them all on Thursday so you can see the entire list. Then you'll know who you're going to pray for and support and who's doing the same for you.
3. You'll always be free to comment on that, even when we move on to other topics.
4. Give your suggestions on how this could work.
Sound good? It should, because YOU came up with it -- you maturing sisters in Christ. I'm so proud. I want to be like you when I grow up.