January 7, 2015

When Your Word for the New Year is "Same-Old"

Happiest of new years to you! I hope this fresh beginning has filled you with renewed hope and faith in Jesus.

With loads of travel over the holidays, I haven't had much time to think about the new year until this morning when, my body on a different time zone, I dragged myself out of bed for coffee, Bible, and quiet reflection. Although I haven't had much space to think, I have followed along on social media as women have been declaring their hopes for the new year. Some are choosing a word to encapsulate the coming year, others are reorienting themselves around priorities and goals. I love that women live purposefully and go after life hard. Declaring hopes and words and goals for the new year fits this pattern, I think, and I hope if you are one of them who has boldly declared, you experience what you hope to experience in the coming year.
There is, however, something that unsettles me about all of this. Perhaps it's just that it appears presently that my life isn't going to look much different than it did in October, that I'm returning to the same-old, same-old. (Maybe my word should be "same-old"?) I have in fact thought about what changes I need to make this year and, considering I tend to resist what everyone else is doing, I've thought about choosing a word for the year. (Other than "same-old", of course.) But the Lord hasn't led me in any particular way, except that I should continue to walk with Him.

I feel unsettled about resolutions, words, and changes--for myself at least--for this very reason: because they would not be directed by the Lord but be self-directed. And what if I chose how I wanted my year to go and the Lord has something entirely different in mind? What if I want health and He gives sickness? What if I want adventure and He asks me to sacrifice? What if I want to give and He makes it to where I have to ask for help and receive? What if I want to laugh and have fun and He asks me to grieve?

I promise I don't have a morbid view of God, as if He is not a God who gives good gifts to His children. I think, however, that we all have this tendency to want to plan, control, and manage our lives, and a new year exacerbates and even celebrates that tendency. (I'm talking mostly about spiritual and internal changes here, not getting healthy or organized or a new job.) Can we know what tomorrow holds? Can we cause humility or joy or patience or forgiveness or love (all great words to summarize hopes for a new year) to grow in our hearts solely from effort? Is God on the New Year's plan and suddenly asking things of us that He wasn't asking in October? Those are the thoughts I keep coming back to as I've considered these things for myself.

It's God who is in control of us and everything. It's God who gives and leads. And it's the Holy Spirit who convicts and brings change in those internal places that we most desire to see it. We are simply to follow and respond in obedience. Maybe as we follow, He will give us words to summarize what He's doing in us. He's certainly done that for me before, but it's usually in the middle or after what He's doing, and it's not been something I anticipated or directed.

To our planning and managing minds, this sounds scary and even a bit foolish. After all, how will we grow? But isn't this--the letting go of responsibility for spiritual growth--instead our very freedom? Isn't it our freedom that we don't have to control, manage, and plan each moment and experience to the last detail? Isn't it our freedom to lay down the responsibility of sanctification? Isn't it our freedom to release a weight we cannot bear, so often leading to our bondage of anxiety, self-loathing, and feelings of failure? It's our freedom that we have Someone who gladly and perfectly bears the responsibility of sanctification for us and for those we love. And it's our freedom because we can focus on simply following and listening and receiving, not trying to create something for ourselves.

OK, so maybe "same-old", minus the negative connotation, isn't such a bad choice after all. Same-old dependence. Same-old faith. Same-old consistency. Same-old ministry. Same-old following. Same-old day-in, day-out walking with the Lord.