As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.
Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself.
Luke 2: 15-19 “The Message”
A new year has just begun. A new year often brings with it a feeling of new beginnings, a desire to start fresh, to re-evaluate our lives, and to make plans and goals for the next year. Those feelings are compounded by 2020, the year no one anticipated.
I’ve never been one for making New Year’s resolutions. It seems when I try to add in a new habit or remove an old one, I succeed for a short period of time and the have the effort collapse. The cycle has left me a bit weary of the whole adventure. But as we look forward to the coming months, I am rethinking my disdain for New Year’s resolutions. I do not have my resolutions planned out fully at this point, but I do know a few things for certain, my goals will be qualitative, and I’ll be “treasuring them in my heart” like Mary.
I remember reading how former NFL coach Tony Dungy wrote about the importance of qualitative goals, as opposed to quantitative goals. The difference is between setting a goal to win a certain number of games (quantitative) or setting a goal to play up to your fullest potential (qualitative.) His reasoning is there are other factors beyond our control in many quantitative goals. Winning games requires more than playing your best, it requires your best to be better than the other team’s effort that day.
As I set my goals in early 2020, I inadvertently set some quantitative goals. And, the chaos that ensued in the spring made me “miss the mark.” The idea of qualitative goals resonates with me theologically, as well. We all still stumble and “fall short of the glory of God.” For some this begins a cycle of shame that is difficult to overcome. Failing at one of our goals, or spiritual practices is not the end of the world. Rather it is an opportunity to reset and re-engage the process of living for God again.
I also remember the advice of one of my favorite authors, Donald Miller, who suggests that we should not share our goals or resolutions with others. The rationale is that as we share our goals our brain is stimulated in the same way it is when we actually achieve our goals. The result is that we actually lose a little motivation. He urges us to write down our goals, break them into manageable pieces, and then to follow in Mary’s footsteps and treasure them up in our hearts.
This way we are not motivated by how impressed our friends and family are with our goals. Rather we can be fulfilled in the accomplishment of our goals. So, I invite you to join me in setting some goals for the future, for this year and the years to come.
Then, let’s all keep those goals to ourselves and support one another knowing that each of us is working toward something fulfilling and meaningful in our own life. And may each of us be blessed with the fulfillment of reaching our goals in this new year.