Like most people who have children or once were children (does that about cover it?), the beginnings and endings of the school year mark successive momentous milestones for our family and me personally. We celebrate first days and last days. We create goals and hold our breath until they’re finally finished. We even plan shopping trips for the purchase of new clothes and supplies based on these turning points. But it’s the changing of the calendar each year that creates an opportunity for reflection, for recalibration, and for re-visioning my life for the next 12 months. In other words, a new year is kind of big deal.
The transition to 2018 was no exception. In the week before and after January 1, I spent time evaluating my life professionally and personally. I recorded what worked and what didn’t; I made “best of 2017” and “worst of 2017” lists. I journaled. I prayed. Some things I thought were regrets from the year were transformed into blessings upon reflection. I made peace with a few other decisions that seemed solid at the time but have left me scrambling into a new year. I tweaked the way I keep my calendar and to-do lists. I reorganized my email inbox. And I chose a Bible reading plan, because in 2018, I’d like to read through the whole Bible again.
Mostly, I recognized something in my life that I don’t often acknowledge: I need more change in my life.
Too often, I focus all my attention on the changes that are happening around me. I’m often too distracted or too busy to pay attention to the changes I need to happen in my life. They’re necessary adjustments in order to keep becoming the person God wants me to be. They’re proactive changes, not reactive. And I ignore them at my peril.
In Ephesians 4, the Apostle Paul talks about making changes in our lives as putting on our new selves and taking off our old selves, kind of a spiritual wardrobe change, if you will. To put on the new self is to move toward the perfect version of ourselves God had in mind when he made us and to live into the perfect self that God established for us when he saved us. Unfortunately, as long as we’re alive in this life, we’re still saddled with the old self that’s stuck in the bad habits and destructive patterns of sin. Before we can become the new self, we have to do something with that pesky old self, but it doesn’t go away just by wishing. On the other hand, trying to do away with the old self without having a plan for embracing the new self doesn’t work either. If you’ve ever tried to stop doing something, you understand the wisdom of Paul’s replacement plan: Off with the old, on with the new.
In Hebrews 12, the author of that book suggests another metaphor for making changes to our lives. In this case, he calls us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,” differentiating between sin and things which are just tripping us up. Of course we need to get rid of the sin that threatens to destroy us. But using the metaphor of running, the writer of Hebrews also calls us to throw off the dead weight of even “good” things in order not to slow down our race or keep us from finishing.
As I thought about creating necessary changes in my life for 2018, I landed on a hybrid model of these two metaphors. Sure, I’ve got sin to take care. But the things that hold me back even more aren’t necessarily bad things; they’re just bad for me right now. But even these things need to be replaced with what’s good for me now in order to experience the true change that I need.
So, for 2018, instead of coming up with a list of resolutions or goals, I made a more and less list. On the one side are the things I don’t necessarily need to root out entirely, but I want to do less of them in order to live out my priorities and dreams. Likewise, the other side reflects the good things I believe God wants for me now. For instance, I want to do more reading and less scrolling. More creating and less consuming. More silence and less noise.
I could include my whole list here, but I’m guessing it would feel a bit confusing to anyone but me. For instance, why would I want more mess and less structure? Isn’t that the opposite of what most people are longing for this time of the year? Instead, I’ll offer you this printable sheet to make your own list.
Tired of just responding to the never-ending changes in your circumstances? Ready to work on the changes you need to become the person God created you to be? Start making your more and less list today.
Often, the change we need the most, the change that happens inside, is the change we most resist. And for most of us, simply waiting for our circumstances to force transformation is not enough. We actually need to create personal change in order to become who God has made us to be. In this series, Welcome Change, we’ll talk about how to make change happen in our lives where we need it most.