When I was younger, New Year’s Resolutions revolved around my free time. This year I will learn a new skill/craft/dish. This year I will try a new sport, go on a trip, or read X amount of books. They were fun challenges that were easy to tackle.
As I got older, my resolutions began to change. They became less about my amount of free time and more about how I managed the time I had. I resolved to get up earlier so I had time to read my Bible; I resolved to take my gym clothes to work so I could run on my lunch break; I resolved to plan meals better so I had a decent, well-balanced meal after work instead of drive-through fast food. These things felt really good to check off my good-girl to-do list.
This year, I feel a little stuck as I consider my resolutions. Focusing on managing my time is tough, as it’s often not my own between my husband and two kids and life in general. I can plan all I want but that doesn’t always mean my plans happen. I frequently find myself in a place where I need to get back on track with my workouts, back on track with eating well, and back on track with my spiritual life.
So what do I tackle this year? I already know I’ll make time for all the good stuff when I can get it. What else could I work on that’s within my control? What’s the root of all of it?
As I mulled this over, I began to realize I needed to work on the one thing I can control. If I can’t control my circumstances…and I can’t control how others around me behave (as I eyeball my kids with the “mom” look)…and I can’t control when and how we get sick, or when and how trials come…the one thing I can control is my reaction to it.
And at the heart of that is…well…my heart.
I hate to admit that I have a bad habit of letting my raw emotions rule the day. If I feel like something is unfair, I pout. If things don’t go my way, I complain and treat my disappointment with a pricey latte. If someone in my house has hurt me, I roll my eyes and administer many heavy sighs throughout the day. If I am scared, I let my anxious thoughts run wild and mull over every possible horrible outcome. Poor me for all the bad things that haven’t happened but they might!!
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.”
In all my well-meaning resolutions over the years, I have skipped right over one that God calls me to daily, not just annually. And that resolution is to train my heart. Yes, emotions are good! It’s ok to be scared and hurt and mad and angry about circumstances. But when my reaction to these things are to roll over and play a victim, I am deliberately not tapping into the power and promises God has for me.
I can’t control what happens around me, but I can control what happens within me.
I can be a bruised reed flying, bent wildly in the wind, or I can be a lighthouse. I can approach each day with the expectation for joy and with the trust that God has me in His hands, or I can doubt every move He makes, assuming any good thing could be snatched away within seconds.
“Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
He’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all.
Run to God! Run from evil!
Your body will glow with health,
your very bones will vibrate with life!”
As I consider how to make this change, I sense it starts small. Gratitude. Simplicity. Trust. Prayer. Quietness. Space. Self-control. If I can be deliberate in my mind, taking notice of every first reactive thought and teaching myself to let it flourish if it’s faithful or to let it fall to the ground if it’s toxic, I imagine over time I can become a much more faithful person instead of a fearful one. I can stand firmly instead of swaying weakly. I can learn to trust and love in all circumstances.
Instead of making big promises this year, I am going to start with something that fuels every aspect of my life: my heart. I will gently redirect it when it wants to pout or speak ill about someone. I will retrain it to look for the good. I will thank God for those I love in my life, regardless if they hurt my feelings. I will speak truth instead of complaining. I will ask God to let me see with eyes of faith instead of eyes of fear. I suspect over time I will see a lot of good coming from these small changes. These changes will affect those closest to me and expand out in a ripple effect that only God can orchestrate.
God wants us to strive to be faithful, not because He wants us to be decent people, but because He wants us to experience the freedom and beauty of a life that always chooses love and gratitude over fear and anxiety.
We don’t just get one day a year to do that. We get every single day.
“Give attention to My words; Incline your ear to My sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight; Keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those who find them, And health to all their body. Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life,”