I hope you’re enjoying these days of the season! And Happy New Year ’23!
As homeschool moms, we have various restart times throughout the year and New Years’ is likely one of those times. This is a time of year when moms usually organize the new (and old) stuff and write plans and other info on a new calendar. I know I’ve been doing that!
It’s also a time when many take time for personal reflection of the past and make goals for what they hope they can accomplish in the upcoming year.
People tend to do one or all of three things: make a resolution to change something (e.g. begin a new exercise program, quit yelling), aim for more discipline in good habits (e.g. read more daily, practice piano more), and/or choose a word that hopefully describes what they hope they will have and focus on in the year ahead.
It can be fun to make a list for chores or manners to work on – make the beds, brush the teeth, learn about ____ this year, eat more veggies, etc.. But what about goals for our spiritual growth?
We know that what is typically resolved for New Years’ is often just committing oneself to a noble idea, only within a few weeks to feel hedged into another cycle of self-effort to produce self-worth. We find ourselves failing to be and do what we had hoped we could this time. And this can include how we seek the truly worthwhile goal of knowing God more.
Yet, how much growth and blessing might we actually experience if we approach closeness to the living God and reading the Word of God with more of a delight of nourishment and less of a yearly goal to achieve?
For growth and unfailing encouragement, I’d like to suggest something different to do. Instead of telling yourself of what you might “do and work on” or a single word that you might end up using like a mantra (and thus limit yourself to a single expression to pay attention to), consider choosing a verse or passage of Scripture if you want to make a reminder of a note to yourself about your desire to improve or grow.
In choosing a Bible verse, there should remain freedom to re-choose at any time, so if say, a month from now you want to change it to a different verse, go ahead and do that. Or if half-way through the year you want to add to the one verse and have two verses (or more) instead, that’s totally fine. The point is that you’re not limiting yourself to just one word or a list of routine things set once-a-year but rather simply using the Word of God to encourage yourself to grow in relationships with God and with the people He’s provided in your life, to reflect His character, with a frequent renewal of your heart/mind.
Here are three things for what you can do when you choose a Bible verse(s) of the year (or more or less often):
- Post it up – copy it out either nicely to make a decorative wall or desktop motto or simply on a sticky note, and display it somewhere where you will regularly see it throughout your year. Share it with others so that they also can benefit from hearing/seeing the Word of God!
- Study it – look at the context of the surrounding verses, check the original meaning of the Hebrew or Greek language of that verse, apply it appropriately to your own life of faith in God.
- Memorize it – We sometimes call this “hiding it in our hearts” (Psalm 119:11)
Let the Word of God dwell in you richly (cf. Colossians 3:16) – just let God use it to add spiritual blessings to your life year-long! Here we find a liberty from focusing on our feelings and self-efforts. Here we find a freedom from guilt when we fail to “keep-up” with how we compare ourselves to others or how good we think we must be if we’re good-enough to juggle what God has given us in our families and personally. Here we find joy outside of “more on the list to do and work on”.
Sure, the Bible speaks about us making efforts and working on things. But when we put Christian growth into a box of “just habits to remember and schedule”, we are missing the sheer delight of simply letting the Holy Spirit and the Word of God guide us personally throughout our days when they aren’t so routine-ish.
I suggest we worry less about telling God how we will please Him more this year and the specific method(s) by which we think we can grow to be more like Him. (cf. Luke 12:25-30) Approach times of planning more generally and more relationally, remembering what God tells us throughout His Word, being Biblical in our choices, and depending on Him to change us.
God wants our surrendered hearts, committed to Him, not just committed to a list of good ideas. It is He, who causes things to grow, choosing when that is in trials or blessings along the way.
Plants don’t tell the gardener that they are going to take a sip of water from the soil at 6:30am daily to grow to be a productive plant. Yes, the plant needs the water and in daily lack of enough moisture, will wither away (cf. 1 Peter 2:2, Isaiah 58:2, 11). But the specifics as to when it showers heavily, when it sprinkles gently, or if it is irrigated, a growing plant rests in surrendering to the nourishment simply provided whenever and however much at that time. Yes, people aren’t plants and we have God-designed abilities to plan our days. But those plans should still be resting in God – a relationship with Him, not primarily a more-disciplined lifestyle.
So in the midst of making new plans for the next parts of our journeys, let’s take time to reflect and commit to God Himself, not just to good goals.
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18 (NKJV)