You and I are a lot alike. We all want to live a life that matters. My guess is that you’ve been busy, like me, jotting down goals for the coming year. We write and rewrite, searching for perfect prose to succinctly communicate an ideal life. We create goals that both challenge and comfort us as we seek to become the best we can be. We make resolutions because, when it’s all said and done, we want our lives to count.
If you are anything like me, and you are, there are certain aspects of life in which you perpetually hope to get better, like self-control and discipline, whether it be following a budget, controlling your eating, reading the Bible in a year, or getting enough exercise. Every year you say, “This is the year when it will all come together. This is the year when I’ll finally __________ (fill in the blank). And twelve months later, at the close of that same year, you realize you haven’t moved all that far from where you started. Me too. We’re a lot alike.
I’ve tried to make the process easier. First, I exchanged the term ‘resolution’ for ‘goal’, hoping to make them something to anticipate instead of something painful to perform. A good hypothesis, but unsupported by the evidence. Frankly, I didn’t reach goals any more than I had resolved resolutions. I needed a new format.
The next thing I tried was to revise the nature of these goals from something I might reach to something I’d be hard-pressed to miss. If weight loss was too difficult, I’d set a goal to at least not gain weight. Simple. Too simple. Self-defeating, in fact, because not only did I fail to take measures to lose weight, but I gained it instead. Back to the drawing board.
This time I chose to set miniature goals, baby steps, if you will. Little by little, I’d raise the bar. No undue stress, self-nagging, badgering, or arm-twisting. I liked that. It’s a lot easier to reach a goal bit by bit than all at once. I set mini goals to boost my entire lifestyle, from eating and exercising to writing, reading, and following a budget. It felt great and looked good on paper, but as it turned out, I still failed to meet them. Too many goals, not enough gumption. Where does the fault lie- with the goals or the girl?
There’s a rather embarrassingly immense gap between the person whom I ought to be and the one I actually am, between the real and the ideal. Setting new year goals every year makes this glaringly obvious. I am far from perfect and I suspect the same is true of you. Why do we seek perfection in our lives? It’s impossible, and we know it. Yet on and on we labor, trying to capture the ideal and make it ours. I think we do so because of a backward equation in our faulty thinking:
Perfection = Acceptance + Worth
You and I strive for perfection, believing deep down that if we are perfect, then others, including God, will fully love and accept us and no one would doubt that we belong. If we were perfect, if we lacked nothing, we would be, as the serpent suggested in the garden of old, like God. There would be no need for humbling grace and mercy. No one could question our significance.
That’s a lie, a bald-faced, black-hearted lie right out of the pit of muck and mire, and we know it. Behind the striving for perfection is the force of our sin nature threatening to churn up a frothy lather of pride and pain within us. It is a battle that rages, that age-old war between the flesh and the spirit, and we must look to God for deliverance. The battle belongs to the Lord (1 Samuel 17:47).
I want to look to God, not myself, to perfect me. He knows exactly what I need at every moment and has promised to continue my transformation until Christ returns. And I have His guarantee, the Holy Spirit, within me. What I want for 2012 is to simply fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and, dare I say, perfecter of my faith.
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:10-14).
My New Year’s goal, my mantra, the everlasting goal of goals is this:
I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. I press on toward the goal to win the prize.
I want God to create in me a life that counts. So do you. We’re a lot alike.