I don’t know about you, but I was pretty certain that I had my life figured out at 19. I knew what career I would pursue, where I would live, the boy I was going to marry, and that we would have four kids together (two boys and two girls—to alleviate some of the sibling rivalry that my brother and I experienced).
As life would have it, though, I never did marry that boy; I’m in a completely different career now; I live in another part of the country; and suffice it to say, God had a sense of humor when it came to allocating my children.
Why is it that we think we have to have our whole lives planned out in advance? Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for setting goals, but we have to be willing to make allowances for change, as well. How can we take steps of faith when God calls us down a different path if we are locked into a certain outcome for our lives?
Even the Creation story echoes this notion. Check out Genesis 1:1-3, where God began by separating light from darkness. He didn’t start with creating mankind, or even sculpting the earth. In fact, verse 2 says, “The earth was formless and empty” (NLT). God built his creation one step at a time: light before form.
Perhaps it’s just me, but I think we often grope through life in the dark trying to get things just-so, when what we really need to do is focus on the Lord first and foremost.
King Solomon mused in Ecclesiastes 2:13-14, “Wisdom is better than foolishness, just as light is better than darkness. For the wise can see where they are going, but fools walk in the dark.” If your life doesn’t look like you’d hoped or planned at this point, perhaps a good first step would be to examine the influences of “light” and “darkness.” What are you involved in that reflects the goodness of God? By contrast, what areas of sin in your life are lurking in the shadows?
I am happy with where I am now, professionally. I absolutely love teaching college students and exploring my research ideas. My schedule is such that most mornings, I’m able to take my younger kids to school, and I even have time to run errands in the middle of the day now & then. I didn’t land my dream job overnight, though; my current success came at a large personal cost. In total, I spent about 10 years of my life in college, and I’m still paying off loans from grad school. I didn’t watch TV for about four years, because I needed every moment of free time in the evenings to study and write. I tried not to miss any big events, but some play time with my kids was also sacrificed during those years when I needed to work late or study.
All that is to say: there’s a cost to be paid in pursuit of our life-goals. Honestly, the same could be said for our spiritual lives. We’ve been working on a new song for the worship team recently, and one of the lines says, “Take it all, take it all, my life in your hands.” Every time I sing those words, I’m reminded of what it costs to follow Jesus. It’s not about having an emotional experience at church or camp; it’s about letting Jesus have total control of every aspect of your life.
In Luke 14:25-33, Jesus had a very frank conversation with a large crowd of wannabe disciples. They wanted to come along for the ride, but he needed them to understand that following him would be costly. Verse 26 often gets misinterpreted as Jesus advocating that we should hate our parents and siblings, but that’s not what he’s saying. I believe what he’s trying to communicate is that we are to have so much dedication to him that our relationships with everyone else – and our view of ourselves – pale in comparison.
The question is: What are you willing to sacrifice? What amount of free time, financial resources, mental energy, and elbow grease are you willing to put on the line to follow Jesus? Following Jesus is truly rewarding, but like the earlier analogy of my job, it takes effort and commitment to bring it to fruition. Proverbs 20:25 (NLT) warns, “Don’t trap yourself by making a rash promise to God and only later counting the cost.” If you are going to sing a song like “My Heart is Yours” or “I Surrender All,” then you need to mean it.
Ecclesiastes 3 is the home of the “time for everything” verses, but if you read a little further, verse 11 is an absolute gem: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (NIV). I love the way the New Living Translation says that God “has planted eternity in the human heart” because it makes me think of how faith grows in our lives over time.
I’ve mentioned before that Easter is my favorite holiday, and it isn’t just because of chocolate (although, I saw that York now has a Peppermint Pattie bunny, so I’m going to raid the discounted stash at the grocery store on Monday!). The thing I love most about Easter is the focus on hope and eternity. Hebrews 13:14 reminds us that this world is not our permanent home, and Paul tells us in Philippians 3:20 that our citizenship is in heaven. This brief snippet of time that we call life is just a training ground, a dress rehearsal, a preview of eternity with Christ. The best is yet to come!
I’m a planner; I like to know what to expect, and I’m not a big fan of surprises when it comes to things that I feel like I should have control over. That said, I got a chuckle out of the way Ecclesiastes 3:11 implied that we humans try – in vain, of course – to figure out the things of God. It’s true, isn’t it? We want answers for this, a reason for that, an explanation for something else … yet, the Bible reminds us that God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9).
It’s ok to not have all the answers or everything planned out just-so. Sometimes, we just have to walk in faith and trust that God does have a plan, even if we aren’t privy to it. He has put eternity in our hearts, and I wonder if perhaps it’s to keep us focused on the end goal of our endless days together in Glory, rather than getting bogged down in the worries of this world. This Easter, let your focus be on eternity.
Nehemiah didn’t lose sight of his goals, even when faced with ridicule and outright violent opposition. How committed are we to God’s will?
I can handle challenges more easily when I have an end goal in mind. Remember Revelation 22:20 – Jesus is returning one day! Amen!
I don’t usually make New Year resolutions, and besides, the main thing on my mind eight months ago was finishing my dissertation so that I could graduate. That goal is in the books — hallelujah! — so now, in my abundance of free time (<<that’s sarcasm, in case you missed it), I’ve decided that I have no more excuses to get my body back in shape.
Inspired by Amy at FitMommas and Andrea at I’mperfect Life, I have set 10 personal fitness goals for the second half of 2014:
- Plank for 40 secs (I have not done a baseline test to see how long I can do this right now, but I picked 40 seconds because of my milestone birthday coming up this fall.)
- 10 pushups (I make the boys do pushups for various infractions at home, so I figured I should be able to do a minimum amount, at least!)
- Walk a 5K (I participated in an event a few months after my knee surgery, and it was brutal. Some of the half-marathon runners finished their race before I finished walking 3 miles! Overachievers.)
- Swim 400yds (This should be the easiest goal to reach, and I wanted to include one that would motivate me positively.)
- 20 squats (I had to do these during physical therapy for my knee, ugh. I can do about 5 in a row right now (maybe 10 with a rest), so this will be a challenge.)
- Walk another 5K (If I don’t find an event to attend, then I’ll just aim for 3+ miles.)
- Bike 4 mi (My knees hate cycling, but I think I can work up to 4mi on a stationary bike, at least.)
- Walk stairs at work 30x by October 31 (I report to my new office on the 4th floor on Monday, Aug. 18, which gives me 11 weeks to reach this goal. That’s only 2-3 times per week to take the stairs, so I think I can make myself do it.)
- Walk around the block 50x by Thanksgiving (There are four months until Thanksgiving, so if I walk around the block 3-4 times a week, then the goal is achievable.)
- 10 burpees (This goal is a stretch, because I cannot even do ONE right now. I have difficulty kicking my feet back (have to walk back one foot at a time) and then jumping back into a squatting position (though I could do it in two little pounces). I like the way this guy showed how to do them … not so much pressure on the knees.)
So, there you have it. I’m writing the goals down here for accountability’s sake. In addition to being more active, I know that I need to eat better. I think my new schedule (i.e., not having to be at my desk from 8-5 everyday) will be more conducive to eating prepared meals from home (rather than eating out at breakfast or lunch) and planning for my own meals throughout the day, instead of just thinking about what to fix for dinner. Not to mention, it will save money!
Whether you make annual New Year resolutions or not, there’s something about another January rolling around that causes us to think about changes. My eldest asked the other day if I had any resolutions this year, and I simply said, “Graduate.” I’ve been working toward this goal for the past four years, although it feels like decades when I’m stumped on part of my research. Graduation is a tangible result – a date, a ceremony, a fancy robe and a piece of paper to prove what I’ve accomplished.
Not all goals are so concrete, though. Some goals we strive toward our whole lives and never quite see the end result. Take your spiritual journey, for example. I reckon if you asked any champion of faith if they have reached the ultimate goal of their Christian walk, they would probably say no. In Philippians 3, the apostle Paul (definitely a big name in church history!) wrote that he was still striving for the finish line.
I love the repeating stanza that the songwriter wrote in Psalm 80 (NIRV): “God, make us new again. Let your face smile on us with favor. Then we will be saved.” Is there anything greater that we could achieve than to experience the Lord’s favor? Everything else seems to pale in comparison.
Our faith journey is not like graduation, where you receive a diploma and call it done. Again and again, we need to be renewed. Over and over, we need to refuel our efforts. As Paul stated in Philippians 3:20, we are citizens of heaven, and until the Lord returns to stamp our eternal passports, we have work yet to do. Let’s make the most of it in the coming year.