Every December, when magazines for the following month (i.e., January) arrive at stores we read the predictable cover headlines. For example, there are catchy phrases that address how to lose the holiday pounds we’ve gained (usually next to a large cover photo of a delectable dessert to make!), how to organize our homes and our lives, and how to get a head start on making New Year’s resolutions—in other words, how to make a fresh start.
There is something very hopeful and appealing in the idea of new beginnings--we all want a second chance to get something right. While there are some aspects of our lives that don’t provide a ‘do over’, we recognize that there are many ways in which we can recreate our lives (e.g., searching for a new job, getting fit and healthy, or developing new relationships).
So, after Christmas, as the current year winds down, many people begin to think about the coming New Year’s celebration. For many people, part of this preparation for a new year includes making resolutions. Some newer trends suggest skipping the idea of aiming for specific goals and choosing a theme instead. Others create a “bucket list”. Those who like to operate on a 3-5 year plan create a “mission statement, which is a plan of action that outlines an individual’s purpose and goals.
Whatever approach we use to manage our lives, the busier life gets, the more we need real solutions in our lives and the more we crave inner peace, a sense of equilibrium. Many of us are seeking solutions, which provide balance in our lives and in our homes. Our yearnings for inner peace may also be described as our desires for a deeper spirituality. Although there is no standard definition of spirituality, most people agree that it goes beyond religion. The National Cancer Institute defines spirituality as, “Having to do with deep, often religious, feelings and beliefs, including a person’s sense of peace, purpose, connection to others, and beliefs about the meaning of life,” From this definition, it is apparent that faith plays a crucial role in spirituality.
How do we evaluate our spirituality or our spiritual maturity? Does the answer lie in a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach? Is there a check-list for spiritual growth—is it a uniform process? Some people have reduced the idea of spiritual development to a formula, which includes attending church services and engaging in a daily quiet time (i.e., to read the Bible and pray). Other individuals include daily Scripture readings from the Old and New Testament. And some folks follow a reading “through the Bible in a year” approach. In the pursuit of a deepening faith, these routines have worked for some individuals. However, not everyone has found them to be helpful.
Finally, another means that some people have found helpful in their spiritual walk is to choose a Scripture verse or passage to use as a model and guide for daily living. One popular verse comes from the Old Testament, and it is one of the Scripture verses that Christians often aspire to fulfill: “But he’s [God] already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love. And don’t take yourself too seriously—take God seriously,” (Micah 6:8, The Message). Jesus’ life clearly demonstrated the directives outlined in Micah 6:8, and our mission is to emulate Him. Our goal is to become increasingly like Him, but we will not imitate Him perfectly. In Philippians 3: 12-21, the Apostle Paul emphasizes that we need to focus on the goal of staying on track and following Christ. It seems to me that Paul, in this passage, answers the question re: how do we evaluate our spiritual growth. Maybe it’s less about getting an “A”, taking a ‘report card’ approach. Maybe it’s more about determining the direction in which we are headed. Like Paul, I am not claiming that I have this all sorted out or have it all together.
However, “I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.” As we enter a new year, maybe that’s the bottom line: forgetting our past shortcomings and failures and keeping our eyes on Jesus, on becoming more like Him.
Many blessings as you continue your spiritual journey. May your New Year be one that is peace-filled and fulfilling.
Canada & Bermuda Territory