Years ago I has a habit of making resolutions for the New Year. Usually it was a pretty good list. Clean up my language when frustration came my way, exercise more, read a certain amount of books, lose a certain number of pounds, and—break up with my obsession over melty cheese.
What I’ve learned is: I am super terrible at keeping a list of dos and don’ts and—it is super difficult to say goodbye to melty cheese.
What I know now: making a list of dos and don’ts for The New Year is the least likely way to create lasting change or lasting results. Most of the items on my list above are surface level behaviors—what I was missing and the reason I failed year after year—was the fact that I wasn’t attacking my behaviors at the root. I wasn’t going down beneath the surface to ask the Lord to change the desires of my heart.
The Lord doesn’t want us to simply obey him at the surface level of our behaviors—the Lord wants our hearts! As the heart changes, the behaviors then change too.
Verses on the heart:
For where your treasure is—there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:21).
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it (Proverbs 4:23).
Search me Lord, and try me. Examine my heart (Psalm 26:2).
For the past few years I have focused on a heart-theme for the New Year instead of a list of do and don’t behaviors to cultivate a transformation of my heart—which then produces a natural change in behavior.
One theme a year. Just one—and let me give you a warning here—be careful what you ask for.
In 2018, my theme was trust. I wanted to trust the Lord with the things I cannot control. I am a control freak and a high anxiety person. So for this past year, I asked the Lord to grow me in trusting him.
As a control freak, I had a plan for what it would look like to trust the Lord in 2018. I was going to trust him in writing a book proposal and sending Slowly Unraveled out into the world; and I was going to trust him in leaving my four children for twelve days while I traveled with my husband to Croatia.
It was really hard to trust the Lord with those two things—but the Lord has provided more than I could ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).
What was more difficult, was the unplanned place where the Lord called me to a season where I needed to trust beyond my control. I didn’t plan on needing to trust the Lord in my double mastectomy journey this fall —which included an unplanned foot surgery for my husband as well—but looking back the Lord provided trust in these big things that were unplanned—and way outside of my control.
Looking back now, I can see the my surface level behaviors slowly changing because the desires of my heart have slowly changed. I am in no way a completely recovered control freak, there are many layers to my desires to control— but the journey is a slow unraveling of my tangled-up heart—and I am confident that 2018 taught me to trust the Lord in the hard things just a smidge more.
For 2019, my heart theme is faithfulness. All too often I have so many big ideas and big plans, I fail to be faithful in the small things. I have no idea what this will look like in 2019, but I am going to be intentional to live faithfully and look for ways I see God growing me in faithfulness—maybe he will grow me in the faithfulness of saying goodbye to melty cheese.
The Lord wants our hearts! I am going to trust him to change me from the inside out.
Here is a list of ideas for heart-themes for 2019—all from the fruit of the spirit verse in Galatians 5.
Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control.
I also recommend finding 2-3 verses from the Bible that go with your heart theme to commit to memory.
Happy New Year. May the Lord bless you and keep you; may his face shine upon you; may he show you his favor and give you his peace (Numbers 6:24-26).