Today, on the third day of a new year, I have no pressing desire to make a resolution. No jittering anticipation over the changes I determine to make in my life. No burning need to start fresh and reach newly-listed goals. Don’t get me wrong, I loved writing “1/1/12” and flipping over a whole new year not just a whole new month. It does feel clean, like a new notebook on the first day of school or a fresh snowfall waiting for my bootprint. But the idea of penning yet another checklist of personal goals and to-do’s, the life-jobs that scroll in the back of our minds anyway, with the entirety of a year in front of it, 365 solid days to use, just doesn’t appeal to me. That life-job list that I refuse to make for myself this year only serves to make me feel like a failure. Yet another bar I set that I do not reach, falling short of yet another opportunity to find myself “worthwhile” and “constructive.”
I am generally a “checklist” sort of person. Write it down, do it, cross it off. But when your list gets longer instead of shorter, more chicken scratch additions than crossed out subtractions, you begin to feel like your time has been fruitless. I didn’t make many lists in 2011. Unaware of the relationship between my unaccomplished checklist and my feelings of failure, I simply got sick of making lists. I thought if I don’t remember it, it’s probably not that important (my husband will cringe in fear at this point because he has firsthand experience with my lack of memory). So, I made no list, I kept no record, I crossed nothing off, and if I forgot… well, I just forgot.
Last year seemed like, for the most part, an uneventful year. No births, no deaths, at least in close relation to us and our children. No immediate family crisis, no life-altering, perspective-changing calamities. It was, for me, a simple year of days in, days out, child raising, money managing, inside, outside, play in the dirt, get cleaned up, dirty dishes, wash them, everyday life-jobs that didn’t come from a list, but from the track set on repeat in my head. I had no reason to complain. There are always people in a worse place than I. So many facing disease, hunger, death, loss, pain, guilt. I didn’t have the justification to complain about any aspect of my simple life. But I did complain. Not in words about my life or my situation, but inside myself stemming from my un-knowing of my own self. The self that was lost in favor of husband, house, children, church. The self that wasn’t sure where God lives in a life and what He actually can do with it. The self that actually did have needs that required God’s attention not in relation to the needs of others, but in relation to the healing He can give. I complained in attitude, by my lack of structure and creativity in the lives of my children. I complained by tuning out life and turning on tv, by making excuses and self-condemning. My needs remained undefined and insignificant.
What I did not understand was that God defines our needs word by word and can articulate them better than we ever can. Even when we decide that our problems are insignificant because they are not as earth-shaking, life-changing as someone else’s are. God does not measure need by who has the most or the greatest. He considers them all equal because the common denominator in the healing is His intervention. Just as every human sin deserves punishment when compared to the righteous life of Christ, every human need is validated in relation to the trials and temptations that Christ endured in this world. If we think our needs pale in comparison to another human, let us consider adjusting our frame of reference from worldly values to the truth of the life of Christ. When Jesus was breaking bread and giving thanks in his last days, He didn’t look over at Peter and think to himself, Peter will also die for the faith… I am not the only one to suffer, so I really do not have the right to feel apprehension about my situation. Instead He came before God, his Father, and prayed for the burden to be taken from Him even though he knew his death was the will of God for the benefit of the eternal kingdom. Jesus knew the misery that was hours away, despaired over his situation, prayed to the Father and conceded to His will despite his human feelings. Jesus did not disregard his human need. He defined it and presented it to God in surrender. Jesus broke his own body in Thanksgiving for the divine plan it cost him his life to see completed. He gave thanks for the suffering that killed him to yield his will to God’s. Can I even begin to grasp that?
Is it possible to thank God for the plans that He has hidden from us while they seem to make no sense ? Can we begin to define our needs and consider them important to God when it seems that everyone around us has more pressing problems? Can we be thankful in the un-knowing? Say this type-A personality of mine made a non-list of non-New Year’s Resolutions, that would be on it- being thankful for that which only God knows the reason to give thanks. To pray thanks over every puzzle piece of my life, oddly shaped as they are, even though I can’t see the picture on the front of the box.
So let’s bring this back to the non-list of non-resolutions. How can we stop numbering the tasks our busy lives require we accomplish, life-jobs we deem unforgettable, goals set so selfishly high that even the self cannot attain them? Will we not feel like we are doing nothing? That, my friends, I think, is the point! Since when has my list, made by me, proved anything of me but defeat? Instead of challenging ourselves to achieve false perfection, why don’t we respond to the challenge God has set and discover His achievements and genuine perfection! Imagine if we could recall all the incidents of the intervention of God in our past. The avoided car accidents, the healing of human sickness, the unexplainable gift of finances in exactly the amount of a past due bill. What if all these things were written in a book for you to read and remember any time you wanted to feel the presence of God in your life? They can be. Grab a notebook, pick up a pen and MAKE A LIST, not of what you can do, but what God has done! Re-read it and bask in the direct involvement He has had in your life. Keep writing, remembering and giving thanks. I bet He can fill up your book with His divine checklist, completed to perfection!