I am a huge fan of January 1.
My ideal first day of the year is spent in comfy clothes with a planner and pen in hand, counting the fruit in how I’ve grown in the year past and brainstorming about how to make the year ahead stand out.
This year my optimism was down. And it wasn’t because of a sour year. In fact, 2017 was my best year yet. But when 2016 ended, I was desperate for a new story. I was just happy to see a change, desperate to feel one, when 2017 rolled around. But 2018? 2018, while I’m looking forward to what God will do, there are too many blank spots on my calendar. 2018 feels unknown. Unknown: translate as daunting. Scary. Darkness and possibly a few dragons.
I grew so much last year. My confidence grew, I discovered a brand new level of independence, relationships are better than ever. But the more I know, the more questions I have. The next year is laced with one big fat, “Am I doing the right thing?” from school to work to my home address.
All this restlessness is not based on my true home. It’s focused on the earth, not on eternity.
The problem with allowing your heart to get busy with worldly things, is soon you’ll walk defeated. Shoulders slumped. Eyes down, don’t dare look at them. You’ll use any mechanism you can to look like you’re ahead, to make yourself look better than you feel. You want to look impressive. You risk being genuine for a false sense of security.
The evil one taunts us and makes us itch for the world’s view of successful. To say we have arrived. He keeps our minds on things like making sure we don’t leave the house with tear stained faces that expose weakness, making sure we feel superior, making sure our checking account is large enough not for provision’s sake but for our false sense of identity. God asks us if we’re loving our neighbor.
We aren’t armed with what the world’s got.
The reason we feel defeated, the reason your soul might feel a bit crushed, is because we are trying to fight with worldly weapons when that’s not what we were ever made for.
“Come on,” said the Philistine. “I’ll make roadkill of you for the buzzards. I’ll turn you into a tasty morsel for the field mice.” David answered, “You come at me with sword and spear and battle-ax. I come at you in the name of God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel’s troops, whom you curse and mock. This very day God is handing you over to me. I’m about to kill you, cut off your head, and serve up your body and the bodies of your Philistine buddies to the crows and coyotes. The whole earth will know that there’s an extraordinary God in Israel. And everyone gathered here will learn that God doesn’t save by means of sword or spear. The battle belongs to God… – 1 Samuel 17:44-47, THE MESSAGE, emphasis mine
The year up ahead? Daunting battles are coming. But we are fighting for the God of Angel Armies. Fight with the ways of the world and you’ll return empty-handed, fight His way and you’ll see victory and experience real joy. We don’t have to explain ourselves to Goliath – we have to know we are under a law he doesn’t even know the language of. The victory will shout His name.
I can walk into this year confident. My God will provide for me. He is in the details of exams and arguments and U-haul boxes – of this I’m sure. But He doesn’t measure my success in a 4.0 GPA or in looking put together. He knows I’m a mess. What He cares about, what gets Him excited, is when my heart is open to Him.
All of the questions 2018 raises are valid. Am I doing my best? What needs to change? What do I need to fight for? Where should I live? What do I need to maintain?
But maybe what’s more important than this questions is saying, “Am I loving hard? Am I opening my heart at the risk of being cut wide open all over again? Am I believing God while I dream of the future and am I serving faithfully where I am? Am I sacrificing for the glory of God? Is my heart breaking for what breaks His?”
Maybe what’s got me worried about this year is what everyone else will think, if the world will measure my tidy answers as successful by the time December rolls around again. My heart gets caught up in earthly treasures like success, getting that one job, popularity. But when it comes down to it, I’m more interested in abundance than success. Humility over pride. Surrender over ego. Inheriting the kingdom over gaining the world.
“Our armor isn’t the old clunky armor of King Saul. That armor is man-made and only slows us down. We weren’t designed to walk around in man-made armor and still be effective giant slayers. Our armor is God-made. It was forged in the fires of his holiness. It was handed to us by the power of his Spirit. It’s available for us to wear anytime we wish. All that’s required of us is to put it on.” – Louie Giglio, Goliath Must Fall
When I get to the end of my life, my God won’t ask me if I chose a major that was impressive, that made jaws drop in awe, if I did things conventionally and in the correct order according to my culture. He’ll ask if I knew Him and loved like He did. It will matter more that I lived in the paradox ways of the Kingdom, even and especially when it looks like rejecting the conventional ways of America.
He will ask me if I cared more about being impressive or if I picked up my armor of humility. And the whole earth will know there’s an extraordinary God in Israel.