A new year is usually a time we are nudged to create new goals for the upcoming days, weeks, and months ahead. Many of you have already done that or are considering it. The goals may be related to diet, exercise, sleep, finances, time management, career options, and more. What we may not consider is what the goals reveal about us.
Sometimes the goal may be to continue growth in an area we are already working on. Sometimes it is to start on a new area we have targeted. We may even choose a goal based on a recommendation of a friend or someone we love. Perhaps we might consider a spiritual goal if we can get beyond the usual hype of “New Year’s Resolutions” that lean more to the temporal daily lives we are living.
Goals tend to suggest what is important to us or at least what we believe should be important to us. Succeeding at goals we set makes us feel good, but the opposite is also true.
Do we ever consider “big picture” goals that really have the potential to shape our character and hence our choices in every area of our lives?
What do I mean by “big picture” goals? One example would be to be more committed in the really central roles I am called to play as a spouse, child, friend, employee, or even as a child of God. Another would be to become more mature no matter what our age may be or to be more authentic in our relationships. If we are honest with ourselves, we may want those and yet they are not often ones that sit at the top of any list of written goals.
These are much tougher because of what they require of us in order to develop these goals.
“For that to happen there must be honesty and truth. The self must be toppled from its pedestal. There must be pure hearts and clear intelligence, confession of sin and commitment in faith.”Eugene Peterson in Run with the Horses
And there’s the rub. We look for the shortest distance, the easiest path, and quickest answer despite the scripture that reminds us not to make those choices.
“Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.”Matthew 7:13-14 (MSG)
The Sermon on the Mount from which these verses are taken is full of rich wisdom, but that means we need to take the longer route, the narrower path, the harder journey with more difficult choices. We don’t arrive at peace within ourselves or any of our desired goals any other way and when we look at athletes, musicians, scholars, and others who appear to have reached the summits in their chosen area, it can be far too easy to be tempted to the fallacy that it “just happened” for them and not see the hours and hours of hard work and discipline that is required to attain the achievements we see being lauded and applauded.
It’s true for us in the “big picture” goals as well.
“There is evil to combat, apathy to defeat, dullness to challenge, ambition to confront.”Eugene Peterson in Run with the Horses
I love this quote from Bill Hybels as well:
“Delaying gratification is a process of scheduling the pain and pleasure of life in such a way as to enhance the pleasure by meeting and experiencing the pain first and getting it over with.”Bill Hybels in Who You Are When No One’s Looking
That’s the stuff of character and integrity and it means being sure the template of our lives is the only one that will get us there – the Word of God, not only read or memorized, but lived out whether we are in church, the grocery store, at a ball game, at home by ourselves, or anywhere at all.
In conjunction with reading Eugene Peterson’s book, Run with the Horses, I read through the Old Testament book of Jeremiah again. One of the things that stands out about him is his character and integrity. He wasn’t considered a leader nor one of any great significance, so he wasn’t imprisoned, hauled off in chains or executed and yet those bedrock “big picture” goals were central to who he was that causes us to read his words even today.
“We must learn to live by the truth, not by our feelings, not by the world’s opinion, not by what the latest statistical survey tells us is the accepted morality, not by what advertisers tell us is the most gratifying lifestyle. We are trained in the biblical faith to take lightly what the experts say, the scholars say, the pollsters say, the politicians say, the pastors say. We are trained to listen to the Word of God, to test everything against what God reveals to us in Christ, to discover all meaning and worth by examining life in relation to God’s will.”Eugene Peterson in Run with the Horses
That makes the path we are to choose very clear. We will need to do life each day with God, not as a footnote to our preferences, but a holy GPS to get us to the destination.