Look, I’ve eaten my fair share of Christmas cookies this year already, and I’m sure come New Year’s Eve my pants may feel a bit snugger than usual. When I look around at the unfinished (or unstarted) projects of 2020, I’ll find there’s more of them than I’d like. My sewing machine will remain almost as new as the day I got it back in April. In short, I’ll have new resolutions I could be making (fewer cookies, more sewing!) and plenty of good intentions left behind in another year gone.
That might weigh on me, a list of failures or a series of prompts for making new resolutions for 2021, except that I don’t do resolutions. I decided some time ago that I wouldn’t put arbitrary deadlines on self-improvement, self-growth, or, worse yet, setting stock in a minor goal as if reaching it would mean I could–what?–give up on goal-setting altogether?
Instead, I like to think of myself like one of those early churches Paul was keen to check in on through his letters. I’m the same me, in progress, and that progress is not limited to a 365-day span, nor are the goals I set for myself established only in January.
Paul wrote to churches in progress all the time. The evidence shows that those churches wrote to them, too. Instead of coming in to plant a new church, setting a static goal, and leaving them to succeed or fail at their leave, Paul left them his forwarding address. He knew that they would remain, possibly for all time, works in progress. As was he.
What a gift that is! And what great sense it makes. God created us for growth, not for tearing down and remaking. God created us in time and space to be moved by our experiences with our faith and with creation. As we look to name our deficiencies and set a path toward betterment, let us not forsake the gift of our core selves. As the Psalmist writes in Psalm 139:14, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.”
So rely on what you know, what the Psalmist reminds us, what the evidence of Paul’s letters tells us. We are wonderfully made, and God makes wonderful creatures. Put another way, “God doesn’t make junk.” Instead of resolving to change by next December, resolve to evolve and grow every day. Resolve to take stock of your own wonderful nature. Resolve to reach out and ask trusted friends in faith, how can I continue to love God more deeply, and follow Christ more honestly? Because, quite aware of Psalm 139, Paul never asked a congregation to change their name, upgrade the façade, or try a 40-cleanse (except maybe at Lent) in order to become better Christ followers. Paul simply told them to keep growing in love and faith, sharing his own story, too, about the way he had grown and continued to grow as a Christ follower and Gospel teller. For 2021 and every year, don’t change to fit an idea of yourself; do grow into the wonderfully made reality of you.