Hi friends and welcome to the Arise, Beloved blog. We have an amazing team of writers behind this blog and our desire is to speak truth into the lies that cripple us and shine light into the darkness that isolates us because we believe that now, more than ever, the Church desperately needs women to be restored so that the world can be set ablaze. Our hope is that you find comfort, solace, and peace in knowing that you are not alone, you are not too far gone and there is ALWAYS hope to be found.
By Kathleen Merriman
In the category of “Other,” on my 2020 goal sheet, I would like the record to show that I intend to learn to juggle this year. No, that’s not a cryptic metaphor, because women juggle a lot already and life is hectic.
I flat out mean I’m going to learn how to juggle this year. Throw objects into the air and pretend to be coordinated, etc., etc. There is a set of three, multi-colored vinyl balls sitting in my Amazon cart already, in case you’re wondering, so you could say I’m well on my way to success. (I’ll let you know when I surpass juggling balls and move to chainsaws, chairs, and small children.)
Juggling is not my only resolution this year. With the arrival of a new decade, I’ve heard a lot of talk about goals this month. Or maybe people discuss goals every year in January and I’m just more, as the kids say, “woke” (now that I’m pushing a quarter-of-a-century). I was struck this year by the variety of strong opinions surrounding the subject of yearly resolutions/goals.
“What are some goals that you guys have for this year?” I asked a room full of young adults on New Year’s Eve, during a lull in the conversation.
“I don’t believe in those,” a friend responded flatly.
“Not really my thing,” another replied.
Others shrugged and said, “I haven’t really thought about it.”
“Yeah, I just set goals throughout the year.”
The general consensus of the 20-somethings present? Yearly resolutions were either out-of-fashion, repugnant, or totally unconsidered notions.
That response took the wind out of my sails quite a bit for about ten minutes (I bounced back quickly: other great conversations were had). However, before I moved on, these remarks sparked a long moment of internal contemplation.
Wait a minute! I protested interiorly while nursing another glass of champagne. Goals are good things! Why doesn’t everyone SEE that?
Didn’t my multiple-category, bullet-pointed list of yearly resolutions, penned merely hours before, support this claim?
To be entirely fair, I’m a goal-oriented person. I actually enjoy setting goals, planning, organizing, creating plans to achieve, etc. I chalked up the New Year’s Eve reactions to variances in temperament from one person to the next. However, upon further reflection, I’ve come to a better understanding of why I view goals positively and why it alarmed me that others didn’t.
I’m a strong proponent of intentional living. I love authentic people and try to surround myself with them. I also strive to be an authentic person. “Be Where Your Feet Are” is a personal motto, because it anchors me in the reality of the right-now, the present moment. Despite my love for the here-and-now, though, I’d like to submit for your consideration the idea that setting goals actually contributes to intentional living.
It does seem a little contradictory that setting future goals helps us to live intentionally in the present. But it’s true. To “Be Where Your Feet Are” doesn’t always mean you’re looking down at your shoes. It doesn’t mean we have to live in the present moment with recklessness. There is a difference between a total lack of planning and future consideration and being fully present. We can be present and still set goals.
Here’s how I know. When I set a goal or form a resolution, it teaches me to temper my desires and to consider what greater goods I want to pursue. A physical goal can train my body to learn submission to my will. A spiritual goal can elevate my soul to my Creator and deepen my relationship, not just with Him, but with those around me. An intellectual goal can broaden my understanding and challenge me to retain a growth-mindset, no matter how old I become. Thus, in multiple areas of my life I can, year-by-year, minute by minute, seek to keep growing and learning. The key is to keep my goals in the proper perspective.
Our goals should encourage excellence, but they are the means, not the end.
When the fulfillment of my resolutions becomes my ultimate end, my life will be miserable as soon as they are accomplished and I will start chasing another dream as soon as the first is finished, constantly thirsting after some new achievement or accolade. The end for which we are made is Heaven. It’s the ultimate goal, whether we realize it or not. The efforts of each day, therefore, will either push us towards or pull us away from that final goal. The resolutions we set can serve as mile-markers in this race towards Heaven.
As someone who refuses to be a passive observer in life, I set goals.
What place, though, does God’s will have in my ambitions? For example, is it His will that I run a marathon? That I learn to bake bread? (I’ve had stranger goals, trust me). I believe it brings joy to God when we strive for excellence and when we set well-ordered goals because we want to love Him better, learn more, or honor our bodies. Once we recognize these as good ambitions, there remains one more step: we must leave room for the operation of the Holy Spirit.
Even with all the best goal setting, vision boards, and colored-coded planners, the reality is that our scope of understanding is limited. We don’t always know what is best for us (for example, I hate brussel sprouts, but dang it if they’re not good for my health) but God ALWAYS sees what is best for us. He sees more than we can. If we are living a life surrendered to God’s will, He’s going to take us deeper and further than our human goals could ever take us. His grace makes certain accomplishments possible that we would not have dared to dream. The vital factor: we have to dare to surrender to His work in our lives.
So, maybe you’ve laid out some yearly resolutions. Maybe you have a life bucket-list. A year goes by, and the fire that was lit in your eyes in January dims amidst the summer’s obligations, the life-just-gets-insane, the 9-to-5 routine. Maybe you occasionally remember a certain goal, or when you’re dusting your bedside table in October you find the crumpled sheet listing your unfulfilled resolutions and you toss it away.
Reality check, ya’ll. Goals are good. But so are you. I am not–you are not–a failure if every item on that yearly resolution list is not achieved. There have been many goals I have set in my life that I have not achieved for various reasons. Some were humanly impossible. Some were driven by comparison to someone else. Some required money I didn’t have. And some, I simply lacked the motivation to complete. But sometimes–the craziest reason of all–I believe God actually prevented the accomplishment of certain goals. At the time, it seemed insane. However, as happens often in my life, I could only see God’s Providence after the fact.
I could choose to be mired down in sadness that there are goals out there, both small and large, that I have set and have not accomplished. Does this make me lazy, worthless, or pathetic? The evil one would love for me to think so and would love for me to throw up my hands at the whole idea of goal-setting.
But I know the truth. The Father has taught me that the substance of my self-worth is not composed of my success. My value is not correlated to how many items I can check off my bucket list, nor does it increase the more accomplished, well-traveled, and well-educated I become. This truth has set me free. Free to fail some goals and free to meet others. Free to hope for them to come to pass and free to work towards their arrival. And totally free to trust in God’s own hopes for my life, His plan to use me as an instrument to bring something to the world that is breathtakingly unique.
If I fail, so be it. If you fail, it’s okay.
“We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures,” St. John Paul II stated, “we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His Son Jesus.”
This is why it is possible to set goals, meet some, fail some, meet some more, and still maintain a spirit of peace throughout it all. These resolutions don’t all have to be lofty, earth-shattering ambitions. They can be little milestones we pass in humility and celebrate in silence. In fact, I don’t tell most people what my goals are throughout the year (spilled the beans with the juggling though…oh well). Just know that God sees your striving. He blesses your effort.
So set those goals. Chase those dreams. Fail a couple of times. And then get right back up and keep fighting the good fight.