Not to sound cliche, but 2019 has been a roller coaster of a year for me if there ever was one. I don’t say that lightly, either. I sincerely mean it from the bottom of my heart. It has been a year of God blessing me and giving me things at one point, and then what feels like him cursing me and taking things away at another point. It has been a year of growth through trials, that is for sure.
Through all of this, I have had my share of highs and lows, joys and sorrows, laughter and emotional breakdowns. In this writing, I want to focus on the future, next year in particular, and how I want to learn and grow from this past year so that I can be more reliant on God than ever before.
Over the past couple of weeks, I have felt that God is pushing me to focus on one word to help me stay focused on him next year, and that word is vision. Kind of funny, isn’t it? Because if you have 20/20 vision, that means you can see perfectly, so with next year being 2020 and God’s word to me being vision, I thought that was funny how that works together. Anyway, so what does vision mean specifically? Because that could go in many different ways. What I mean by vision is how I see things, not just being able to see them. So going into 2020, there are three things I want to see differently: myself, others, and God.
On the enneagram personality test, I am a type 2. For those who are not familiar with the enneagram test, the title of the 2 is “The Helper” and the big thing about us is that in order to feel useful and fulfilled, we need to be helping others. We “need to be needed,” as the test says. This is generally a good thing, but if 2’s are not careful, they can overwhelm themselves by helping others so much that they forget to help and take care of themselves. This is exactly what happened to me towards the end of this year.
I do not mean to sound like I am bragging by any means when I say this. If anything, I am scolding myself for not being more aware of how many activities I can handle and putting my own health at risk, not in any serious way, but it was enough to wake me up and realize that some things needed to change.
Change…this is what this writing is all about, isn’t it? How do I plan to change the way I see myself going into the new year? I (God, really) have thought of some ways I can do this.
Earlier this fall, I read a book by Kevin DeYoung on the 10 Commandments. It was a great book, and I plan on using it for some small group studies I will lead in the future but there was one chapter, or commandment, that really stuck out to me. This was the chapter on keeping the Sabbath and making it holy. Reading this made me think about how much I need this; just to take one day out of the week and completely unplug from everything and giving the whole day to focusing on God. This is one of the things I want to start doing. On Sundays, I am going to refrain from using any social media, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and more, refraining from any TV, whether it be a sports game, TV show, movie, refraining from any video games, and refraining from doing any homework or studying, even if something is due on Monday.
Doing these things will not only help me be more mindful of my time the rest of the week, but it will also help me grow closer to God because instead of doing the things I would normally do on a Sunday afternoon and evening, I will spend that time either studying Scripture, reading a book, writing, or listening to something that helps me focus on God.
Another thing I want to do in the upcoming year is to get better at saying no. No, I’m not trying to become a toddler again, I mean that I want to be able to be content with what I am currently doing without feeling the need to take on more things to feel fulfilled. Going back to my enneagram personality type, this is going to be a challenge for me. Like I said, my type needs to be doing things to be content. But it’s not like I’m going to completely stop doing things entirely, no. I simply want to lessen the number of things I have to be doing in order to be satisfied with myself.
Another thing God has been teaching me this year is how I should view others. In the past, I have had the tendency to be very judgmental of people from time to time. “Wow, that person curses? I would never do that!” “Man, that person went to a bar and got hammered last weekend? Unthinkable!” I knew that this was sinful, yet I kept doing it because it made me feel better about myself.
But Philippians 2:3 tells us to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” That was a punch to the gut for me. Slowly but surely, God began showing me my own sin and would say things to me like, “Do you really think you are better than that person just because they use foul language and you don’t? Don’t you know that you do (fill in the blank)?” All sin is equal in the eyes of God, and I was wrong to not show grace to others just because I thought my sin was “less bad” than theirs.
Moving into 2020, I want to be more gracious. I want to see others as better than myself because I know that my own sin is evil and disgusting before God, no matter how insignificant I may think it is. I once heard a quote that went something along the lines of, “We judge others by their actions and ourselves by own intentions.” What this means is that even if someone else was trying to do the right thing but they messed up on one part, we’re quick to jump on them but when we do the same thing, we prefer to say, “It’s okay. I was only trying to do the right thing!” We need to give others the same amount, if not more grace than we give ourselves.
Lastly, I want to see God more clearly than ever before. What do I mean by that specifically? I mean that because of everything I have gone through this year, both the highs and the lows, I want to be more reliant on God than I ever have before because I know he has brought me through so much this year.
Another thing I have struggled with this year is not fully surrendering parts of my life to God because I would rather be in control. I did this even though I knew full well that I would be much better off giving it to God, but I still refused to do it. But who am I to tell God “no”? Despite me being stubborn, God still achieved his purpose for me by breaking me down so that he could build me up. God had to take things from me, energy, desires, and more, so that I would come back to him and realize that everything I have is from him. Even the things I take for granted, such as clothing, shelter, and friends.
I want to be more aware than ever that God is with me, even when I do not feel it. There were a few times this past year when I was struggling with something so I would just sit down at my computer and write whatever came to my mind. During one of those times, I wrote this:
“I know that there is hope, but I don’t feel it. I know that I have grown despite the hardships, but I don’t see it. I know that all of this is Satan trying to bring me down and that Christ has already won, but I don’t feel victorious. Yet, despite all of this, I refuse to give up and surrender. Even though I currently see no end or hope in sight, I press on because I know that joy will come eventually and all of this will be worth it.”
This was truly how I felt at times. But one passage of Scripture that helped encourage me so much was Isaiah 43:2 which says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” This verse helped keep my head above the water and looking up towards God.
All of this goes to say that I am still learning and growing. And as long as I am here on earth, I will always be learning and growing. I know that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom and I the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15). I know that “I have [not] already obtained…[perfection], but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14).