It can be exciting to begin a new year. Something changes between December 31 and January 1. Usually we have had lots of time off. Maybe we’ve really enjoyed the slower pace of the past few days after the holiday rush. In this context of warm feelings supplemented with a constant supply of coffee, fudge, and comfort foods, we get great ideas about how to change our world.
But soon it will be January 5.
We’ll be back to work or school (barring snow days!). Monday will be the kind of “normal day” where the rubber meets the road on all those New Year’s Resolutions. Or maybe the kind of normal day where we’ve skidded off the resolution road and are just trying to hang on to the wheel. Maybe it’s the kind of normal day where we live defeated.
Reality often hits hard, doesn’t it?
I think this is why God gives us toddlers. Have you ever noticed how quickly they can get places on those tiny little legs? They are so stinking determined! They are hard to defeat.
One of my kids fell down on a sidewalk crack one time. He did a total face plant. His nose and forehead were scraped and bleeding.
Crying, he picked himself up, turned a big circle and ran down the sidewalk again. He tripped in the same spot, but caught himself by bracing with his hands. The palms of his hands were now dirty and bleeding, too.
Still crying, he turned another circle, refused my hand, and bolted down the sidewalk again. He tripped, but this time he tucked his shoulder and rolled into the grass. He rose covered in grass clippings, with a grass stain on his shoulder.
A fourth time he turned a big circle and dashed down the sidewalk. Without missing a step, he crossed that crack and continued running toward home.
He was bruised, bleeding, covered in grass and dirt, and had little tracks of mud on his cheeks from where he’d rubbed his tears away with grubby hands, but he was triumphant. My heart swelled with pride as I wiped his tears, cleaned his wounds, and embraced and praised him for his victory.
Maybe we need to learn a little something from toddlers.
1. Know what you want.
Or maybe I should say, know what God wants you to want. Philippians 1:6 suggests that God will accomplish what he wants to accomplish in our lives. Sometimes I have difficulty making progress because I am striving for wrong things – or striving for right things for wrong reasons (James 4:3). God’s purposes tend to direct us toward holiness more than happiness. Happiness (or its fuller counterpart joy) is generally a byproduct, not the goal. When I strive for happiness, it eludes me. When I strive for godliness, I find happiness already there (Psalm 37:3-9).
2. Don’t Over Think It
Ultimately, I can plan all day long, but it is God’s purposes that will play out (Proverbs 19:21; Proverbs 16:9). And he is working all things for my good (Romans 8:28, well Romans 8:26-33, really) and his glory.
3. Start Moving.
My job is obedience, not results. Think about Joseph. He obeyed his father’s instructions to check on his brothers. He obeyed in Potiphar’s house. He was faithful to the baker and cup bearer in prison. And God was with him in the midst of the injustice right up to when he recognized the reason (Genesis 50:20). God has prepared work for me (Ephesians 2:10), planned a path for me to follow (Jeremiah 29:11-14; Psalm 32:8; Psalm 16:11; Colossians 1:9), and provided what I need (Matthew 6:25-34). Maybe I don’t need to prepare for every contingency before I begin. Maybe the rough spells are part of his plan. Maybe I need to learn to obey first and trust him for the results.
4. Look Obstacles in the Eye
Have you seen the way a toddler will just look you in the eye as if maintaining eye contact will keep you from noticing they are still at it? I need to seriously evaluate the obstacles in my path like that. Are they God-ordained and protecting me from going down a wrong road (Acts 16:6-10) or are they attempts to defeat me (Ephesians 6:11)? I cannot tell the difference unless I look an obstacle in the eye.
5. Learn to Bounce
The Bible word for this is perseverance. And perseverance is a good thing (Galatians 6:9, James 1:12). I read this great quote the other day, and I’m going to get it all wrong because I cannot remember where I read it or who said it, but it was something like: there are no losses in life, only lessons. Taken to the extreme, I’d have to disagree. We live in a fallen world, and there are great losses that should be recognized, grieved, and respected. But do you see the kernel truth there, too? It is a matter of perspective. When you “fail,” you either lose or learn. You are defeated or discovering. And God didn’t save us through Christ to be defeated. So learn. Discover.
6. Run Home
And at the end of the day, when we arrive home (John 14:1-3), our Father’s heart will swell with pride as he wipes away our tears (Revelation 21:4), cleans our wounds, and embraces and praises us for persevering to victory (Matthew 25:21).
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6
As we set our New Year’s Resolutions this year, I hope we’ll think beyond January 1st. I hope we’ll think beyond 2015. Maybe we should think about the perseverance required to attain the prize, rather than just the prize.
This year I am resolved to keep circling back when I stumble, because I will stumble.
This year I am resolved to bounce.
This year I am resolved to run toward the arms of my Father.
What about you?