new year's resolution
I don't like resolutions. I don't even like goals. This year, I made a resolution.
If I need to do something that's good for me, why would I wait until January 1st to start doing it? If I need to stop something that's bad for me, why would I wait until after the year's over to stop doing it? What if I want to set a new goal on January 2nd, but then I have to wait for 364 days before I start it?
We all know resolutions are silly, but there's really something magical about them. The new year feels like a fresh start and a new beginning. It feels like a new opportunity to make life and everything else better.
When January 1st came and went, I started reflecting on the things I wish I'd done in 2021. I asked myself, "What is the thing I most frequently wished I had or had not done?"
I haven't set "resolutions," per se, but for the sake of this post I'll give the last two years "themes" that summarize the personal development that was most important to me.
most things don't matter
During the tumultuous year of 2020, I discovered that, in reality, most things don't matter. That was the year I started journaling very seriously. I filled my journals with all the things I was worried about in a day, but by the end of every week I had forgotten almost all the worries.
I also kept track of all the things I thought I really needed to do. I only wrote down the things that were strong enough to move me away from whatever task I was doing at the time. Ironically, at some point I decided to finish a task before getting distracted by another one. It turns out, I forgot about 99% of the things I previously considered very important.
Therefore, the theme of 2020 was, "Most things don't matter."
Once I discovered that most things don't matter, I started to push the limits. How much could I not worry about and still get by?
As I started playing with that idea, I really had an epiphany when I read Jesus' words in Luke. The passage goes,
"Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
“Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 2If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
— Luke 12:22–34 NIV
It was this passage that really solidified it for me: I must no longer worry.
During 2021, I tried very hard not to worry, and if I had made it a resolution, I would have been a major failure. Gladly, instead of setting an unrealistic goal, I simply tried to move away from worry and toward faith in every way I could think of. I even wrote 12 blog posts about it!
When I started to panic, I asked myself, "What would faith look like right now?" I tried the trick of simply sitting still and letting life pass instead of immediately addressing every passing worry on my mind. It's amazing what letting be and being still can accomplish to increase faith.
Finally, when something bad happened, usually the best I could do was let go. Those who were around me in 2021 know that I wasn't very good at not worrying, but I know that I got better every day.
Because I oriented myself away from worry in 2021, the beginning of 2022 is looking quite bright!
Welcome to 2022! Yes, I know January is almost over and most of the daytime television hosts have already made the jokes about how long they were able to keep their resolutions.
Just after New Year's Day, my friends started asking me about my new resolution. That's what got me thinking about what would have made 2021, 2020, and every year before that better. I asked, "What is something good that I've been putting off?" Well, I got a clear and resounding answer:
Pray more. Pray often. Pray without ceasing!
I asked, "What would it look like to 'pray without ceasing'?" It means I would pray as I wake up and as I'm trying to fall asleep. I would pray while brushing my teeth and while making dinner. I would pray while the other drivers cut me off, and I would pray when my truck gets stuck in the snow. I would pray when I look at my student loan balance, and I would pray when my friends and family send me surprise checks in the mail. On the bus. On my bike. In my office. In class.
If I pray without ceasing, I discovered that that doesn't leave any time for me to have regular conversations. Every word I say to my friends has to be a prayer to God. Every equation I write on my math homework is an offering and petition to the Lord. Every text I send, every email I write, every blog post I publish: they all have to be prayers.
All these posts were the result of an hour of prayer:
And so were these:
And so were these:
And, funnily enough, so were these:
I've even covered the book that taught me to pray like this in depth here on my blog:
Is it failure to spend a minute, an hour, a day, or a week without prayer? Absolutely not. I have to admit that even though I'm praying more than I ever have in my entire life, normal thoughts and feeling still fill the vast majority of my day–and there's nothing wrong with that.
I don't rack up failures for every second I'm not talking to God! On the contrary, I win a victory every time I think of him. Every reminder in a new situation is a new place that's guaranteed to be blessed.
So, there it is. That's my new year's resolution: pray more.
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