Pursuing Vision for the Year Ahead
I once heard someone say that December is the Friday of the year. It made me laugh, but it does feel that way. You spend the first half of the month tying up loose ends for the year so you can have more fun and do some extra activities that don't happen the other 11 months of the year.
January can pull us in various directions.
There are those who struggle through the month as they deal with a let down from the high of the holiday season; they are missing family time and the buzz of extra activities December brings. On the other hand, there are those who see the new year as an invitation to reinvent themselves; they create lofty goals and declare they will quit some things (cold turkey), while committing 100 percent to something new. The reality is that 80 percent of those who make resolutions quit them by the second week of February, according to Us News in a 2015 article.
It speaks to the point that we can’t modify our behavior long-term on a whim or be motivated purely by a date on the calendar. The vast majority of us—if we’re honest—don’t succeed in all of our resolutions, because we are only invested at the behavioral level.
Six years ago, I was exposed to the idea of asking God for a theme or word to encompass the coming year in place of creating New Year’s Resolutions. I really enjoyed how this has created lasting change in my life, and I have been doing it ever since. I want to unpack what that looks like for me and how you can get started with this practice. It is not a strict biblical discipline such as reading the Bible or praising God, but I find that it keeps me abiding in Him and keeps me on course.
The foundational verse used to promote this as a positive practice is found in Proverbs 29:18:
“Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.”
I loved looking this verse up in different versions and I would encourage you to do the same. It is a nugget of truth placed in the middle of several one liners of wisdom in the book of Proverbs. The essence of this verse is that if you do not have a revelation from God (insight on your life) you will be prone to following the flesh and all human logic (casting off restraint). Your dreams will be birthed out of selfish desires and your methods of accomplishing them will be derived from human means. Our restraint is the Godly influence that shapes our desires and guides us on the path to achieving them.
The world’s top leadership ideology will tell you to have a vision for where you want to go, and what you want to do. We dream because that is how God made us. I am simply echoing that and applying the biblical principle of submitting all you dreams and desires to Jesus and letting Him influence what you go after in the next year. There is no perfect way to approach this, but I would like to share how I have come to pursue the vision for the coming year.
I tend to start my process as the holidays approach. This keeps me present and focused on what matters. I take time to list the fun things I experienced personally and as a family. I also ask Holy Spirit to bring to mind those things I have forgotten. He helps to build a case for God actively moving in my life. A heart focused on gratitude to the Creator will be much more receptive to His “next steps” guidance.
Be a Grade-A Noticer
Then I begin looking for hints and phrases that may be foreshadowing my year to come. This might begin with seeing the same verse pop up many times in a week or so, or conversations with friends keep having a recurring theme. In my prayer time, I try to be more diligent to quiet myself and listen. I write the things I feel God speaking to my heart and sometimes, that is where I sense the recurring theme.
If you are earnestly asking for God to speak to you, He will! Sometimes, I feel like I have my word/phrase/theme before the end of December and sometimes it comes after the year has begun. There is no strict formula for getting it or for how it looks to live it out in the coming months. However, I believe wholeheartedly He will reveal it. Stay in hot pursuit and believe.
Hold Your Theme Loosely
One of the most important lessons I have learned over the six years of doing this is that I don’t have it all figured out. I have been blown away by how my word has played out over the year. For instance, my word for 2017 was ‘Go Deep’ and I was so excited thinking this meant God and I were going to be going to new depths and it was going to be awesome…it was awesome, but the avenue He chose was via the deepest wound in my life. He took me there to invite me into healing and it was hard, painful, and at times I questioned whether I would make it out in one piece. But when it was over, I was in awe of how He healed me and how it has had a ripple effect of Glory in my life and my relationships.
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
stats: 80% do not keep their resolutions