I am currently reading Adorning the Dark by songer/songwriter Andrew Peterson, and one story he tells has helped me think of New Year's Resolutions in a different way.
When he and his wife bought a large piece of land in Nashville, he didn't know how to make it beautiful. It was just too big to know where or how to begin. Then he met a certified English gardener who was willing to come, walk his property, and give him some advice about how to cultivate the acreage. She paced the perimeter of the house, meandered in the meadows, and wandered the woods, thinking and making notes the whole time. Then she left.
Some time later, Peterson received a package in the mail, and unrolled the drawing inside the tube. It was a 30-year landscaping plan.
When I undertake a project, I typically hope for results in a weekend, maybe a month. Even the task of writing a book is something I like to complete in a year. I can keep the end result in mind when I take on short-term projects. But working on a piece of land for thirty years? That requires a kind of vision I am not sure I have. Most of the time, quick results define success in my mind. But that is not how the best things work.
God is the Master Gardener who walks the sweeping avenues of our lives and illustrates a thirty-, fifty-, even an eighty-year plan for our lives. He wants to see every last inch of our days come to full bloom.
So where did we get this arbitrary idea that goals have to be completed in one-year's time? No wonder we fail so often. Are we willing to work within God's vision for the new year instead of our own?
This is how it would look:
- Release all of your ideas for the near and far future.
- Pray a prayer of submission and obedience to God's design.
- Listen closely and write down what you sense He may be saying.
- According to His vision, begin planting the seeds that will become strong trees several years from now.
Relax about your goals. If you don't pay off all of your debt by December 31, isn't it still a success if you pay off one credit card? If you don't run a marathon this year, wouldn't it still be an improvement to go for a run every day? If you don't finish writing that book in 365 days, isn't it still an accomplishment to write half of it?
I am not using the words "resolutions" or "goals" as much as I used to. Even in the goal-setting workshop I am hosting next week, I will be urging our guests to plant "seeds," instead.
Seeds require tending. And that is what I am willing to do this year and every one afterward. We aren't going to get an oak in a weekend.
But we will get one in time.