I started this year with some New Years’ Resolutions (actually I called them “objectives” — sounded less gimicky). It was quite a list — over twenty goals, each with measurable specifics, separated into categories based on the major roles & responsibilities in my life: husband, father, health, job, men’s group ministry, technical expertise, and spiritual development. Recently, I sat down to review that list, and I learned something that I thought might be worth sharing.
I’ll start by confessing right off the bat that I accomplished very few of my goals — I actually forgot about several of them. But the peculiar thing about my year-end review was what happened to me when I read through the list: instead of getting discouraged by my “shortcomings”, I just started to laugh. Not a derisive, self-mocking sort of laughter. But a good-natured, full-bellied laughter that comes from a flash of insight. Why? Because as I read through that list, I saw the expressions of an earnest and sincere younger man who genuinely believed that by DOING things I would find “meaning and purpose and fulfillment”. I honestly thought that by aspiring to these (very respectable and worthy) goals that I would be pleasing my Lord. What made me laugh was the realization that I pleased the Lord even though I accomplished virtually none of my objectives! That really cracks me up! Why is that funny? I guess because, in a moment of clarity, I saw that list from His perspective: and I think He was chuckling too.
Don’t get me wrong; I believe the Lord appreciated my list — I believe He smiled on my intentions. He took pleasure in the heart from which these ambitions sprang, just as I delight when my little children say, “Daddy! Watch what I can do! I can balance on one foot!” “Wow!” I reply, with sincere applause, “Look at you! Good job!” It is not their accomplishment that delights me — but their hearts.
So, when I look back on that list on Page One of my 2013 Journal, I realize that I pleased my Father this year even though I failed to “measure up” on the majority of my “goals”. The real question is: what ever gave me the idea that these were His goals for my life anyway? They were certainly “good ideas” (even healthy ambitions), but were they divine directives? Inspired instructions? Probably not.
It’s not that I didn’t accomplish anything useful this year: I loved and dated and prayed for my wife, spent fun time with my children and had meaningful conversations with them. I jogged every week, read several books, and studied my Bible daily. Even so, none of these quite measured up to the aspirations I had 12 months ago. But you know what? I’m okay with that! I also wrote a sermon and several blog posts that will probably never be read by more than a few people. But I believe the Lord has them taped to His refrigerator, proudly displayed to the angels as if to say, “Look at what my son did!” (And the angels, in deference to the paternal pride to which they have grown so accustomed, reply with stifled grins, “Wow, Lord, he’s really… uh… showing some promise, isn’t he?”) It’s not a charade, it’s not a farce. It’s a Father delighting in His child, just as I do in mine. What a wonder!
So, am I going to write more resolutions for 2014? I don’t know yet — I haven’t actually decided. But if I do, I plan to do it without so much a furrowed-brow, as with a knowing grin.
And then when I’m finished, the Lord and I will share a laugh about the whole thing.
Stop thinking about what you want to do in 2014 and start thinking about who you want to be by 2015. @benjmiller