Ditch the List

Most of us start each year with a long, stress-inducing to-do list that—let’s be honest—only makes us feel lousy, as if we were such horrible people in the previous 12 months that we need a major overhaul this year to have any value. This is usually the result of comparing ourselves to others. Please stop doing that to yourself! It’s not constructive and it’s not even close to being biblical.

I’m not suggesting that we adopt the attitude of Calvin here. . .

. . . but I find it ironic that the motive behind most of our resolutions is to make us feel better about ourselves, a flawed strategy that inevitably backfires on us.

Try this: Instead of writing down all the things you can do to like yourself better 12 months from now, ask the Lord to help you start a revolution in your life and in your family, to transform you from the inside out.

Romans 12:1-2 is a great passage to memorize and meditate on: 

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

This year, replace your list of goals with a blank page that you offer to God. Allow Him to reshape your thoughts, character and behaviour.

Old Habits Die Hard

Some of you might still be itching for a list of some sort, so here are five general principles (not goals) that can help you prepare to be transformed in 2021.

  1. Do a clean sweep (see Colossians 3:5-10) — Before you tackle the closets you want to declutter or start tossing out junk you’ve been hoarding, invite the Lord to help you let go of attitudes and compulsive behaviours that hinder your spiritual growth and your relationships with others.
  2. Celebrate each day (see Psalm 118:24) — Don’t wait for special occasions to break out the fancy dinnerware, blow out candles or give cards. Make it a habit to find something special about each day to rejoice over, because each day is a precious gift from God. Do something fun or meaningful—even if it’s tiny—to celebrate.
  3. Break up with your mirror (see 1 Peter 3:3-4) — When I turned 40, I wrote this in my journal: “There must come a point in every girl’s life when she cares less about how beautiful she is and more about the beauty she creates.” Certainly, use a mirror when you’re getting ready in the morning but try not to spend hours in front of it and avoid checking it throughout the day. Set an example, to your children and to others, of prioritizing inner beauty over outer beauty and of beautifying the world around you. Remind yourself that how you see is more important than how you look.
  4. Talk less, listen more (see James 1:19) — We joke about how there’s a reason God gave us two ears and one mouth, but the truth is that some people can be difficult to listen to. However, your relationships in general will become healthier when your loved ones see that you are listening to understand them and not simply to respond.
  5. Bark less, wag more (see Philippians 2:14, 4:4) — Determine that you will replace complaining and criticizing with thanking and praising. Don’t wait for your circumstances to change your feelings; you will be waiting a long, long time. Instead, change your attitude and your circumstances will suddenly look very different.

I’m pretty sure 2020 did not turn out the way you had hoped. Whether that’s because of COVID-19 or your own unmet goals, let it go. Let God give you a fresh start. 

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.’” 

Lamentations 3:22-24

I love how Anne Shirley (in Anne of Green Gables) put it: “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”

Happy new year, friends!