2019: New Year, New Goals, New Hope
I don’t make New Year resolutions. I even struggle with making New Year goals. For the last five years every goal has been meticulously planned, giving more and more room for “surprises” without compromising the end goal, only to have them fall flat each time. Grad school was put off to move to the Middle East. A state-side wedding surrounded by family turned into an Arabian wedding in the desert surrounded by strangers. A healthy marriage turned into divorce.
In 2018 I aimed small. After my divorce, I lost my home. I’d been blessed to live with a family rent free in exchange for watching their three teenage girls. My goals were to get a job and my own place by the end of the year. The job came in July. The home came in October. Apart from making it through the year, those were the only goals I allowed myself to make in 2018.
The big dreams I had over the years started to fade. The goals I had been so ambitious about in years past lay dormant. I’m not sure if I had given up on them as much as I had just decided they were for another season of life - maybe when I was able to get my act together. Maybe never. Maybe I just needed to aim small each year - except God had been continually reminding me I serve a big God, and I needed to “ask bigger.” As 2019 approached, the encouragement to ask bigger continued, and the last week or so I’ve been hearing, “I haven’t forgotten you.”
It always amazes me how what we know and what we believe can be entirely different. I know God can’t forget me. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is in Isaiah 49, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you in the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me” (v. 15-16). He hadn’t forgotten me, surely.
Somehow I’d twisted that scripture in my heart to believe that God hadn’t forgotten me the same way a person can’t forget about a rock in their shoe. Or a thorn in their side. You don’t forget it for a moment, but it’s not a particularly enjoyable thing to remember.
My heart hurts writing this. I’ve learned, however, when you acknowledge a negative with the intention of replacing it with a positive, that negative loses it’s power. It’s the hiding, the secrecy, that causes a negative to fester, become infected, and infiltrate every other aspect of the mind and body.
“I haven’t forgotten you,” God continued to whisper. I pulled my old dreams and goals out of the corners where they’d been hiding, dusted them off and held them up to the light. Were they still possible? Were they still reasonable? God could resurrect anything, but would he resurrect these? I’d been through a lot, my mind and body was not the same as it was when the dreams were birthed. I was older, more broken, I’m not as educated as I hoped to be by now, and certainly less capable of making them happen.
Still, God’s words lingered. “Ask bigger. I haven’t forgotten you.” Or my dreams. Or my hearts desire. Unlike the rock in your shoe, where all you want is to get rid of it, he remembered me the way a Father remembers his child like a picture in his wallet or on his phone. His dreams for me surpass my dreams for myself. That's what His Word says.
When my goals first became unattainable, I decided to believe that every time I missed the deadline for a goal, I would simply create a different deadline. I'd spend the time between now and then making myself the kind of person who would carry the success of that goal. Of course, the more I grew in my character, the deadline would come and go without a single stride closer to the goal. My character always grew, my goal always got became clearer and more defined, but I always seemed to be the same distance away from achieving it.
My vision is to accomplish the goal. Perhaps God's vision involves who I become on the way to accomplishing it.
So I’ll write down my goals for 2019. I’ll make them S.M.A.R.T (specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, time-bound) and I’ll schedule my days with intentional steps toward the goal. I’ll also trust that God is always on time, and His vision is far greater and better than my own. If another year passes waiting, becoming the woman who can carry the blessing that goes with the accomplishment of that goal, then I’ll trust it’s not wasted time.
He hasn’t forgotten me. He hasn’t forgotten you. Too often we give up on our goals long before God does. We must learn to persevere. Even when our shoes wear out, our hands become blistered and calloused, our hearts grow weak and our vision faint. Even when our journeys seem to take enormous detours that make our once achievable goals now seem impossible... We must not lose heart. Often God isn’t preparing us for our goal, but a much greater version of our goal that He’s had in mind all along.