It’s time for my 2019 goal setting session.
The final days of 2018 are moving into the past and the New Year has slipped into view at the far edge of my life’s radar. It’s time to get out my legal pad and look ahead to the New Year. Each year, I go to elaborate lengths to look back at the past year and plot my course for the coming year. I divide my plans into what I know (or think I know) what will happen in the next year, what I’d like to see happen, and entrenched ongoing commitments. That information is the basis of my goal setting for the coming year.
So often, my yearly review looks nothing like the goals I set. More than ever, 2018 reminded me to hold all things loosely.
After the intensity of the final two months of 2017 – when my husband’s two surgeries bookended our daughter’s wedding, I was loath to set any goals. My heart’s desire was for an uneventful year or at least, a year I could control. It didn’t happen. Our summer was one of the most stress-filled seasons of our 30-year ministry. Then, I said yes to too many writing and speaking commitments in September. I began to panic over how to accomplish everything I set my hand to do.
That’s when God reminded me that He is in charge of my life and ministry.
I had plenty to do. How would I juggle all my commitments if the unexpected happened – everything from illness to a green light from an editor? God knew. Several times I would finish one project – a book proposal, a magazine article, or a speaking engagement and then, within 24 hours, I would receive word about a new project. By pacing my work, God directed me into the writing and speaking projects He wanted to do. I had enough time to do all He asked me to do.
But I’m a slow learner. As we revolved into the Christmas season, I stressed over holiday commitments. Odd how the little things can pressure us more than the important things. I found myself becoming uptight over the delivery of presents to our church’s three elders than I ever was over speaking at an International conference. What gifts should we choose? When could we get the gifts to them? Should we deliver at church or in private at their homes?
Most important, when are we going to get this done?
Both of our schedules had relentless black markings scrawled through every day. All three families lived in the country which meant a time commitment of several hours. We finally saw a window of opportunity on one Friday. But as quickly as Jack’s schedule cleared, heavy fog obliterated driving viability. “We’re not going anywhere,” Jack announced. “We’ll try again Tuesday. Check with the three wives to see if they’ll all be home that afternoon.”
Sunday’s communion mediation took an unusual turn with a message I needed to hear. Mike, a retired school teacher, talked about his compulsion to plan and the need to shift with the ebb and flow of retired life. He quoted wise Solomon:
“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails (Proverbs 19:21).”
I was too busy that Sunday trying to coordinate with elders’ wives about gift deliveries to give much attention to Mike’s words. One couple had a doctor’s appointment late Tuesday afternoon. One wife needed to visit her mother. The third elder might or might not have to work late.
As Jack and I tried to decide how to deliver our gifts Tuesday afternoon. Proverbs 19:21 rebounded in my brain. I threw up my hands. “Let’s just go and depend on God for the timing,” I told Jack.
Off to deliver Christmas gifts!
We reached the first house. The elder was home and his wife arrived five minutes later from visiting her mother. We had a lovely visit.
The next two families lived across a road from each other. We decided to drive by the home of the couple who were supposed to be at the doctor’s office. Just as we passed, we saw their cars in the garage. They had arrived home five minutes before and Marty was eating a hasty dinner before he had to leave in ten minutes A second short and lovely visit.
The third man shouldn’t have been home from work yet. But so far, our batting average was two for two. We agreed – we wouldn’t be surprised one bit if, regardless of what he had said, Duane was now home. We would at least deliver the gift to his wife, Sandy.
Duane met us at the door, surprise and wonder in his voice. “I just got home five minutes ago,” he said. I’m not sure if he looked surprised because of our timing or because Jack and I were laughing.
When am I going to trust God’s timing?
Why didn’t God work things out for us to deliver our gifts that foggy Friday? I hadn’t heard Mike’s meditation on Proverbs 19;21 yet. God knew I needed a refresher course in the finer points of making my plans but allowing God to direct my steps.
Now, as I turn the page of my legal pad and start my list of goals for 2019, my pen pauses. Should I even set goals? Yes, I should. I need direction. I need to set my sights. As I do that, it’s important to keep two things in mind.
Heaven is my long-term goal. All my other goals need to be in alignment with the final goal of Heaven. My desire to reach Heaven and bring as many people as I can with me will influence everything I choose to do. That’s why Paul said so eloquently:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12;1,2).”
God determines the pacing. If my over-arching goal is to close the gap between me and God and to aid others in reaching God, He will honor what I do. It’s His Kingdom work, not mine, and He will allow the events and plans of my life to unfold in His best timing. That’s why it’s so wise to partner with Him in my plans and to acknowledge that He is part and parcel of the staging of my life drama. I need to trust Him that if He is in my plans, He will make it happen.
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” – James 4:13-15
As I make and execute my plans, I think I’ll pray this prayer:
“Lord this is what I would like to do and here’s when and how I’d like to do it – unless YOU have a better idea. Keep my heart and mind open to Your better ways.”
As you look toward 2019, I invite you to do some goal setting of your own. Aim in the direction of your goals and then let God determine how fast you get there. Finally, in all that you do, keep your sights set on Heaven. When you do that, you can be confident that whatever you do will be centered in His will.