I am 100% about making goals in the new year. I love making goals, I love checking boxes, and I love fresh starts. January 1st is a day filled with motivation, energy, and excitement for me.
And January 2nd – is a day filled with exhaustion from the burst of motivation the day before.
I know myself well enough to know that I follow this routine. But over the last couple of years, I have found a way to not feel defeated and not to give up in the long haul. I have come to learn how much I crave perfection, and the satisfaction I find when I accomplish everything I wanted in one day. I know that that satisfaction comes from a heart of sinful pride and placing my identity in something that is self-made.
Because just as soon as I have a day where I don’t have the energy to exercise in the morning – or I cave & watch Netflix instead of reading a book – or I eat a few too many fries dipped in Gorgonzola sauce – or I decide to listen to music instead of memorizing Scripture as I get ready in the morning – or any other manner of ways I don’t follow through with discipline – I experience great disappointment in myself and my lack of commitment to my goals. And clearly this reveals a heart that is putting her hope too much in the external following of rules instead of her inner relationship with Christ.
At the beginning of December, I started listening to John Piper’s daily podcast called “Solid Joys Daily Devotionals.” On December 25th, he had a beautiful episode called “Three Christmas Presents,” which encouraged me immensely as I thought about my goals for the new year.
His first point was to have a clear purpose for living – to trust Jesus and to love people. This was important for me to hear because too often I put more emphasis on my box-checking than on my relationships with people. I can worry too much about not getting my 8 hours of sleep instead of realizing that once in awhile, it’s okay to sacrifice it in order to spend time with people. I can hurry past people in the hallway in order to get everything done on my list instead of stopping to talk with them and hear about their lives.
Instead, I need to trust that God will work out the details in my life – that my usual orderly discipline will not suddenly be upended for good if I miss a few boxes today, and that He will be more pleased with my loving others than in following all my own rules.
Piper’s second point was that we can have hope that our failures will be forgiven – “if you don’t have hope that God will forgive your failures when you sin, you give up.” I really love how he described our goals for the new year as “new patterns of living.” Calling it “patterns” helps to establish that it will become a habit. It doesn’t mean it will perfectly be done every day, but that over time, you will become more consistent with following through. And reminding myself that we all need a rest sometimes is important to keep me from burdensome slavery to the checklist.
I have to be honest with myself that I will fail at my goals – that’s inevitable. But Piper is so encouraging when he reminds us that “failure does not have to have the last word. Let Christ’s covering of your failure give you hope.” Thankfully Christ does not leave me in my failure. He came to forever redeem me from my failures, and this is what gives me fresh motivation for each new day.
Piper’s last point was that Christ will help us. He is pleased with our desire to live a more godly and disciplined life, and He promises to provide us the strength to do so. If I place my trust in His strength instead of my own, I will be much more successful in the end.
Another reminder towards that end comes from one of the books I got for Christmas called Picture Perfect by Amy Baker. She says this –
“With Christ’s perfection as our own, we can begin to worship the perfect God rather than the god of perfection. We can start to love God and others instead of performance and performance-based outcomes. We can start to love perfection simply because it represents Christ and his death in our place, nothing else. We become part of a community whose function is to glorify God and support each other.”
This is my desire for the new year. I have my list of goals, yes. I have my boxes and colored pens with which to fill them in. But every single day, I want to orient my heart with God’s plans instead of my own.
I am a rule-follower, but He is a relationship-builder.
I am about performance, but He is about pardon.
I am about goals, but He is about grace.
And this year, I want His unceasing love for others to fill my bones and be my truest motivator for the things I do. I want to stop measuring my success by how disciplined I am and how good I look to others. Instead, I want my only success to be a Father who is well-pleased by my love for Him and for others.
I know I will fail at this, just like I do at fulfilling my goals. But thanks be to God for His indescribable gift of grace and mercy. And thanks to Him, I know that He will do the work of truly changing my heart to be like His.
Every new day that we wake up is a new chance for grace, for a fresh start, and for new choices to walk closer with Christ than we did the day before. And that should give us all the encouragement we need to walk forward in the new year.