"...[O]ne thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind
and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,
I press toward the goal for the prize
of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
"How many of you make New Year's Resolutions?" I heard the young preacher ask the last Saturday of 2012 as I sat squirming in the middle of the meager congregation. He had just read from Phillipians 3 about the Apostle Paul pressing onward to lay hold of his prize. From this passage, the preacher had built a solid argument for why we should both use our time wisely and not cling to what was left in the past. This meant that procrastination and self-pity, two of my worst nemeses, were no longer an option.
"I know some people out there don't set New Years Resolutions," he continued--I being chief among them. My reasoning was thus: Wasn't having a resolution just a meaningless ritual that was never followed through? These things were for the unbeliever anyway; it was for them to turn over the new leaf, not us, because we already have new life in Christ. And if this new life were all about grace, why try to pull yourself up by your bootstraps through your own good efforts?
What I failed to see was that these sorts of "meaningless rituals" could actually be a vehicle for the life God calls us to. "I would encourage yo to [make these resolutions] and to make your goals measurable," the preacher went on. "Do you feel like God is calling you to start a business? Take steps to make that happen. There is very little that happens in your life that you cannot control. It matters what you do with what you're given."
I've seen much in my life in 2012 that needs changing--be it attitude adjustments, worn-out habits, or my limited field of view. This may not be an exhaustive list--and at the end of 2013 not all of it may have been accomplished--but the following provides at least a snapshot for where I want to go in the coming year and what in my life I can truly change.
Goals for 2013
*Publish my first book
*Pen the first completed draft of my grandfather's biography
*Provide for myself by means of regular work and my own house
*Publish 1-2 blog entries/articles a week
*Pray systematically and consistently
*Set up regular dates with close family and friends
*Exercise 3 times a week
*Add three songs to my clarinet repertoire and make them concert-ready
*Finish one crochet project a month
*Finish a queen-sized quilt by hand
*Start a master's degree program
*Earn my teaching certificate
The last thing the preacher said that night still rings in my ears: "Don't allow your past to cripple you and make you worthless for God." The past doesn't necessarily mean the absolute-worst-thing-I've-ever-done; it could just be the way I've always done things. If I were honest, I might say that the way I've always done it has never quite worked, and continuing to do things that way just perpetuates the cycle and puts me that much farther behind. I don't want to give myself a handicap before I even step inside the starting block.