I love New Year’s. While I am not much of a planner in general, I love getting everything squared away for a new year. The Christmas decorations have (sadly) been put away, the house freshly cleaned, closets and toys recently purged. My brain space feels sufficiently cleared to consider my goals, my plans, my dreams for the coming year.
Every year, I revel in ordering a brand new planner on Amazon. I make lists for every
aspect of my life, from fitness to faith to marriage to family. I set goals. I write down lots of things…aaaall the things. Because it feels important and productive. (Writing them down is so much easier than actually doing them, amiright?)
While I love the planning and dreaming that comes with a new year, I always have to be a little careful of my expectations. There are so many things I’m ready to change, start fresh, see happen. I have new goals for my fitness journey. I have new projects for my writing. I have new approaches to parenting, fresh commitment to my marriage, and a renewed sense of faith in my walk with God.
This is it. This is the year that I will finally arrive…victorious and shiny and no longer prone to stupid struggles and silly behavior. I will finally become the person I have always wanted to be! Forever wise, always gentle and patient (but appropriately firm) with my kids, and a wife of endless patience and love…and of course I will possess perfectly timed wit and zero desire to ever consume sugar ever again!
You can see the potential problem here. My eyes become bigger than my stomach. My hunger for more…to be more… is greater than my actual capacity to accomplish all of those things by the time I want to…which, let’s be honest, I usually expect to be done with the goals right around mid-February. It’s laughable really.
This morning I was doing a short devotional with my kids about how God makes us into a new creation. Our old ways of sin pass away when we become a Christian and God gives us a new heart that helps us live for God.
I gave some examples of my regular struggles: anxiety, frustration, impatience. I asked my daughter what one of her biggest struggles was.
“Fighting with Gavin,” she said without missing a beat, referencing her little brother.
I told her that’s one thing we can practice. We can ask God for help in handling that temptation better. She threw her hands in the air and her eyes got wide.
“But mom,” she said with exasperation. “He’s just always there! Making me want to fight with him!”
I laughed. And there it is! We want so much to do better and be better…can’t we just magically be better??… but the temptations are just always there in our face. It seems so impossible, insurmountable, beyond our own abilities.
But instead of just being better, we have to endure the daily struggle and exercise of practicing. Little by little, God helps us choose Him in these small situations. Little by little, He helps us to grow.
It sounds lovely, but I honestly kind of hate it. The constant stepping back, taking a deep breath, and physically choosing to keep my mouth shut, or stay calm and gentle, or put someone above myself when all I want to do is be selfish….is so incredibly hard.
But little by little… it gets easier. Just like anything else. It’s tedious, yes, but hard work works.
We don’t grow muscles overnight. We go to the gym over months and months. We don’t have babies overnight. We grow them over months and months. Those babies don’t become well-adjusted adults overnight. We go insane raising them for years and years (wink). We don’t become fast runners overnight. We endure tedious weeks of endurance running and speed training. We don’t have amazing marriages overnight. We weather calm valleys and thrashing storms together over years and years.
We don’t become best-selling authors or vice presidents of companies or group leaders or experienced anythings overnight. We must submit ourselves to the process and the time it takes to stretch and grow. We work toward these things.
Yes, we are to bloom where we are planted….but no flower blooms all year long, 365 days a year. Many only bloom for a short time, some longer than others. For many months, that seed lays dormant in the ground. Some skip years between blooms, some come back faithfully each year. And all of them (in Indiana, anyway) endure the icy winds of winter, tucked below the frozen ground, waiting for their time to begin the long dig out of the dirt.
New Year’s is a wonderful time to set goals and reorient our lives, but it can also trick us into thinking we can change dramatically in a short amount of time. Just as a seed can’t burst forth out of the icy ground and produce a bloom in the dead of January, we can’t just pop up one day being the person we want to be. Instead of reinventing ourselves, maybe it would be better to celebrate the victories we had the past year, large or small, significant or not so much. Scratch a little mark on the wall to see how much you’ve grown. You’ll see that while it may not be dramatic, there is progress. And you’ll get there. It may not be a dramatic change right now, but over time you’ll see that the change is significant.
We can’t just be a new creation, but we can certainly enjoy becoming one.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 2:17
“So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.” -2 Corinthians 4:16 (The Message)