One Step Back, Several Steps Forward
So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. (2 Peter 1:12 NIV)
Groups and businesses frequently conduct evaluations of their status and develop plans for needed improvement, especially at the end of a year. If you are a Mariners fan, you probably know by now that the team has decided to “rebuild” for next season and beyond. Despite a winning season in 2018, the Mariners narrowly missed the playoffs again and have now gone longer without a playoff appearance than any other professional sports team. General Manager Jerry Dipoto ultimately decided that the current team could not consistently compete at the same level as the other top teams in the league, and so has dismantled much of the team’s core, trading away veteran stars for some top young prospects. The Mariners are not expected to do well this season, but the hope is that the new young players will gain valuable experience and develop into a new core of stars that could contend in 2020 and beyond. In Dipoto’s words, “we are taking one step back [in 2019] with the hope of taking two steps forward.”
Whether simple or drastic, formal or not, individual New Year’s resolutions often result from the same process. As we welcome this new year, I, like many other individuals, am also reflecting on my life and mulling actions to bring about wanted or needed changes. Essentially, this amounts to an identity check. And for me, the most important part of that is looking at my relationship with God. My resolution process this year has involved stepping back to see the key areas in my life where I am overlooking God so that He can lead me forward in those areas.
One of my favorite chapters in all of Scripture is Psalm 139. I read this whenever I need to do some deep reflection, because it is a powerful reminder that God is everywhere in my life, even the dark places. He knows my thoughts and actions and I cannot hide or rationalize anything, no matter how hard I may try. And yet David sings of God’s assurance:
Even the darkness will not be dark to you; The night will shine like the day, For darkness is as light to you. (Psalm 139:12 NIV)
He then prays:
If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Do I not hate those who hate you, LORD? (Psalm 139:19, 21 NIV)
As I have consistently struggled with self-critical thoughts and taking negative occurrences personally, these words drive my resolutions. One will be to meet insults, criticism and bad experiences with a form of hatred that will drive away lasting anger toward myself. While I will inevitably need to recognize error in some of my ways, I also need to remember that bearing unnecessary weight as a result hinders my ability to serve God to the best of my ability.
Another goal for this year will be to find time to pursue some creative interests amidst the chaos of family life and a full-time job. The key here will be shifting my thinking. Instead of considering these as tasks and having to make an effort to find time for them, I should recognize the opportunity to use my gifts as a privilege and be excited. With both of these, I am not completely scrapping and rebuilding my character and routine. Rather, I am simply pausing, reflecting, and asking God to reshape certain aspects of my responsive nature.
Some of us may need a rebuild in some form. Others may need only a simple reminder of words and promises. Whatever the situation may be, I encourage you to reflect on the last two verses of Psalm 139:
Search me, God, and know my heart; Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)
Take a step back as you pray this, and may God give you abundant forward progress.