January can often feel a bit overwhelming. Of course, this might not be the case for you, perhaps you are raring to go with your New Year's resolutions and have already sunk your teeth into some of your goals for 2022. If this is you, great work! I hope I won’t seem too uninspiring when I share that rather than goals, what I’m currently sinking my teeth into is Christmas cheese. For two reasons. The first is that we seriously over-catered on the cheese front. The second is that this year I’m choosing a different kind of New Year’s resolution, with less hoops to jump or goals to achieve. I’ve been in the fitness industry over 10 years, and I think I’ve finally got saturated with the “be a better you” message at this time of year. That’s not to say it isn’t a good goal, after all, I’ve spent my life’s work so far helping people improve their wellbeing through fitness and movement classes, and I believe we all have a responsibility to steward ourselves as God’s creations. But the message of constantly doing or being better every year, with its good intentions aside, is an exhausting rhythm. Do you write down New Year's resolutions? I used to live with my sister and each year I would insist we write ours down together and pin them on the wall in our flat. I’d fill almost my whole A4 whereas she would casually jot down a few items, mostly just to appease me. (I remember one year it included “take clothes to dry cleaners” - I tried to argue that was more of a “To Do list” kind of thing, but she stood her ground). On my list I’d have all manner of things, like: new qualifications, fitness regimes, writing a novel, finding a husband... Some of which I’d manage to complete, others I’d abandon, forget about or simply fail at. Many would just end up on the next year's list (the husband one was finally checked-off in 2015). The point of me sharing this with you is that I was constantly feeling like I wasn’t doing enough or achieving enough, and I think many of us can find ourselves here. We reflect upon what we lack and vow to be better. It’s healthy to seek self-improvements at times, but the motivation behind our desire to change is important, as well examining the measuring stick that we are using to judge ourselves or our achievements. More crucially, where is God in this conversation?
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2 vs 8-10 (NIV)
So, maybe it's a bit controversial but...
This year I’m not going to try and be a better version of me.
Instead, I'm thinking on this:
Allow God to develop me into the peron He's planned me to be
And now what the law code asked for but we couldn't deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us. Romans 8 vs 4 (The Message)
It's a huge concept but, simplified, it means a whole lot less personal striving. And more watching for what God is doing, listening to Him, waiting on Him... It's definitely not the "take control and achieve your goals!" sentiment that this world might be selling us at this time of year. For me, I think a practical application of this looks like:
Focusing LESS on what I do and what I achieve Focusing MORE on how I think and react
When it comes to examining how I think, it's often heavily influenced by how I feel, wouldn't you agree? So it'll mean inviting God in when I’m processing feelings. Opening up my head and my heart. Maybe I’ll hear His voice or maybe the awareness of His presence might change my experience of those feelings? (After all, He is both my comforter and my conscience). Now, examining how I react to things, that one won't be an easy task! It might be uncomfortable and it'll require me to slow down for one thing. But if I'm to allow God to develop me I'll need to take my hands off the steering wheel, take my foot off the accelerator and consider my reactions prayerfully. Maybe this one wasn't for you, but incase you did need to hear it - let God release you from the need to strive and the pressure to do more. And if the invitation to slow down and be guided by God in this season seems even more of a task (full disclosure - as I write this I have a fresh revelation of just how daunting that can be! Sometimes it's actually easier to strive than to stop!), let us ask for the peace that transcends all and take heart in the knowlege that God has got us, He holds us securely and will teach us graciously. And he loves us unconditionally, no matter how much Christmas cheese we've eaten or will continue to eat. Amen.