The Only Goal Worth Setting

“The time is ripe for looking back over the day, the week, the year, and trying to figure out where we have come from and where we are going to, for sifting through the things we have done and the things we have left undone for a clue to who we are and who, for better or worse, we are becoming. But again and again we avoid the long thoughts….” ― Frederick Buechner, A Room Called Remember: Uncollected Pieces


New Year’s should be one of my favorite holidays. It is a holiday marked by both looking back and looking forward. Drenched in the art of reflection, we begin to paint a picture of the coming year we dream will be ours.


Reflection is my bread. And dreaming about the future, my butter. These things sustain me. Reflection with a side of dreaming is the meal I run to at days end. New Years should be an invitation to the richest of these meals. Ripe with a whole years worth to look back on and a whole years worth to look forward to I should be full.


But, the truth is, this holiday tires me. My dreams for a clean slate and a year completely new have gone unmet too many times. But, unlike those who have tired of setting goals for weight loss because of their own repeated failures to live up to them, I suffer from a different sort of disillusionment with the holiday. The disillusionment of realism.


I am all too familiar with the reality that this day is not any different from the day before it. I am all too familiar with the unpredictability of life and the ways in which all of our dreams and goals can be derailed by a simple phone call from the doctor or a boss calling you into their office.


Last year was the first year that this sort of realism had really taken hold of my New Year’s spirit and I wrote about how I was approaching the year with an open-handed sort of curiosity. Thinking back, re-reading that post, I remember I was disinterested in my soul. Detached from the changing of the number on the calendar. Disengaged from the idea that I could enact change upon my life. I chose a posture of open-handed curiosity, but deep down my heart felt helpless.


This year perhaps I am more honest with my helplessness in some areas and more convinced that I am not helpless in all areas.


It is true that I cannot change the tides. There is much that will come in 2014 that I cannot stop, and there is plenty that I cannot will into happening as well. There is so much in the world, and in the year to come, that is out of my control. We humans are so frail. But, I have learned something this year, and have come to believe it more than ever because I have seen it in action… We are truly powerful beyond measure.


We cannot control the tides, but we can enact so much good on the world. We are frail and our lives are but dust, but we can take those lives and we can build something with them that will never fade. We are powerful to the measure with which we can give and receive love. It is the most powerful change we can ever enact on the world.


I cannot control the tide. I cannot will Bryan’s cancer to go away. I can stand strong against the winds. I can hope and pray and trust.That will not guarantee that Bryan’s cancer will go away this year and never ever come back. But, I am not helpless.


There is much that I can do in the world. There is much that I can do and dream THIS YEAR. My actions cannot change all things, but they can change many things. I know because the actions of others have changed things for me. Because the love that has been poured out on me has carried me when I thought I would sink. And that has made all the difference in the world.


This year as I begin a new year. I am not filled with goals and specific plans for the year - I know how easily those things can be blown away by even the gentlest of winds. My hands are open, but they are not empty. They are full of dreams. Dreams of love. My goals for this year are goals to enact the only kind of change that really matters - the change that comes from sharing love with another.


This year I will not set goals that are unattainable and will quickly be shoved aside. I will not dream dreams of a perfect, stress-free, and happy year. But, I will act on that gentle prompting to send a letter to the friend who’s mother is sick. I will say a prayer for the stranger who rocks her foster baby to sleep in the ICU tonight. I will surprise my mom with flowers and take my husband out for a dinner date. I will laugh until I pee with my son and dance until my legs hurt with my daughter. I will invite that new couple from church over for dinner and buy the book that my friend just published to support her. I will cook my family dinner.


I will love.


And in loving I will hope. Hope for the only kind of change that can really last - the kind of change brought about by love.


Rejoicing in the journey,