And so a new year begins. Wow, it’s almost intimidating to think of everything that will happen in the next 365 days. All the good and bad and in between. Where will I be spiritually, seems to be the question in the forefront of my mind.
2017 was good. It had its challenges. It had ups and downs. But for the most part, last year was a good year. Spiritually, I grew in some areas and atrophied in others. Again, it was a good year, but how can I learn from last year and walk closer to the Lord this year?
I guess I’m thinking ahead and asking: “Will I be formed more in His image by the end of the year than I am now?” Here are some thoughts on approaching the year ahead…
What do I want to achieve in 2018? Where do I want to be spiritually? What are my goals? What are my resolutions for the year?
I’ve never really been a fan of new year’s resolutions. For me, they just never seem to stick. Also, thinking of all the ways I am going to be in control of this year sets off alarm bells in my head. Shouldn’t it be the Lord who guides my steps (Verse page” data-hasqtip=”0″ aria-describedby=”qtip-0″>Psalm 25:4-5, Verse page” data-hasqtip=”6″ aria-describedby=”qtip-6″>Psalm 31:3, Verse page” data-hasqtip=”30″ aria-describedby=”qtip-30″>Psalm 143:10, Verse page” data-hasqtip=”15″ aria-describedby=”qtip-15″>Proverbs 3:5-6, Verse page” data-hasqtip=”48″ aria-describedby=”qtip-48″>Proverbs 16:33, Verse page” data-hasqtip=”31″ aria-describedby=”qtip-31″>John 16:13). Shouldn’t I be the one giving up control and letting Him lead me?
So how does one approach the coming year? What goals, if any, should be set? Are work goals ok, but let the Lord lead us spiritually? Surely some level of planning is required!
Two scriptures jump to mind:
We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9 NLT
Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm. Matthew 8:26 NLT
It’s like the Lord is saying: “Let Me direct your steps. When storms come, have faith, look to Me.” Could these be marching orders for the year? How would one go about letting the Lord direct their steps?
Firstly, it’s about trusting Him to lead you well. Jesus always invites, “follow me.” Do we accept the invitation?
Secondly, it’s about knowing what the marching orders are. For this, we need to spend time God every day. We need to be lead by the Spirit.
So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. Galatians 5:16 NLT
How do we connect with God? Mostly through His Word, prayer or worship. I’d like to suggest another way that has worked well for me over the last little while. It’s a tweaked version of something from a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. She calls them “Morning Pages.”
Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages, they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow. – Julia Cameron
Now before you jump to any conclusions, let’s not get all spooked out. I am most definitely not suggesting any kind of weird, hocus pocus, new agey thing here. Write three pages each morning. Clear your head of the stuff that would otherwise pop up in your prayers in any case. Declutter. Here’s the tweak, write to God. Write and clear out, but write to God. Tell Him what is on your mind, get out the frustrations, tell Him how it is. Thank Him for what He has done in your life. Pray for loved ones.
What? Pray by writing? Yes, put your prayers on paper. Bill Hybels in his book Too Busy Not To Pray speaks about writing prayers down. It’s a great record of what you have prayed for, where you are and how things progress.
What I’ve noticed as I’ve done my morning pages with the Lord is that I am actually more focused on Him than if I just pray. By writing I focus more. I’m not over-thinking, I write as things pop into my head, but I am writing to God. It’s not just a random consciousness exercise.
And here’s the thing: Julie Cameron says of morning pages: “Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand.” I have found this to be true. As I have de-cluttered my head, the nagging thoughts feel dealt with. As I converse with God I begin to hear His thoughts for me too. I hear Him speak to me. I hear Him guide me. Scriptures jump to mind almost miraculously. I get my “marching orders.”
And hey, it’s not all done and dusted after that. It’s still 05:30 in the morning and nobody is up but me. I still have the entire day ahead of me and I need the Lord for that. Pray as you go. Pray in the Spirit. Wait on the Lord as and when you can. Stay connected.
So that’s guiding my steps. What of planning and goal setting?
I still think it’s important to know where you are headed, otherwise, you will wander aimlessly.
Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire Cat says it best in Alice in Wonderland:
“Cat: Where are you going?
Alice: Which way should I go?
Cat: That depends on where you are going.
Alice: I don’t know.
Cat: Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
For me, to over-control to the extent that you edge God out of the picture is not healthy. To just waft ain’t good either.
For the year ahead, set goals prayerfully. Seek God’s council on what He wants to do. Seek your marching orders. If you hear a little wrong when He “answers”, that’s ok. Be open to recalibration. Make your plans, but then let the Lord direct your steps. Have faith, even in the storms, that God has the best plan for you.
Ultimately you can ask anything of God, but be humble and pray in balance as Jesus did:
“Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.”