Among a plethora of online advice about New Year’s resolutions, I was intrigued by a forthcoming series from Fast Company that suggests an alternative to resolutions (and perhaps a more rewarding outcome): writing a letter to your future self. So I’ve given it a try (although I doubt Fast Company had Baptist pastors in mind with its advice).
Dear Future Self,
I think you will agree that 2018 was a good year – not the best but certainly not the worst.
You finished your second year of pastoring with your head held high and the church held lightly. There were enough money in the budget to do ministry and enough butts in the pews to listen to your sermons that, yes, at times were a bit flat and unenthused. But nevertheless you preached.
The state of the country has been heavy on your heart, and you have struggled to pastor your community in the context of a politicized and polarized world. Keep your chin up. For the most part, you’ve led your people from the hard soul work you do each day and you somehow managed to trust God to do what God does best – love us all.
I know you wanted to drop those extra 10 pounds, but keep in mind you’ve been lifting heavier weight — and remember that doctors say muscle weighs more than fat. Give your body a break. At the very least your spirit appears lighter, and isn’t that one of the greatest challenges as the years go by: keeping the weight of the world off your soul?
I know you like New Year’s resolutions and setting quick, unattainable goals inspired by influential writers and time- and work-management experts. However, let’s consider a different approach. Here are three challenging, life-long practices for the road ahead:
“Doing more can lead to being less.”
1. Do less and be more.
Why do you keep doing more, acquiring more and adding more?
The addiction to “more” can have an avalanche effect. “More” is like a snowball rolling down the mountain at the peak of winter. It begins as a tiny, ice crystal floating down from the heavens that is quickly capitalized upon by millions of other small, wintry flakes to build a bigger and better ball of snow that rolls down the mountain, collecting speed and eventually turning into a devastating avalanche devouring all in its path.
Doing more can lead to being less. When you do and do and keep on doing you forget that who you are is not defined by what you do. This year, doing less can lead to becoming more.
The spiritual discipline of doing nothing is rooted in the practice of Sabbath keeping. When you stop doing and stop consuming for one day each week you will discover an ancient truth: Enough. You have enough. You are enough.
2. Slow down.
Why are you so busy and always in a hurry?
“Dive deep into the darkness where few answers are found but better questions are discovered.”
“Busy” and “hurry” are packaged together in a deceivingly tempting to-go box called productivity. Productivity, like efficiency, is good some of the time but not all the time. What if you trust that there are enough hours in your day, enough days in your week, enough years in your life to have a meaningful existence? Perhaps, you might remember what you ate for breakfast or the name of the cafe barista or your brother’s birthday.
Slow down. Smell the roses, yes. But also pause to take in the beauty of the wildflowers – growing wild and free — and embrace each season as it comes. Slow down. Move at a soul’s pace. Slow down. Savor life, even the boring, ordinary moments that appear frivolous and foolish.
Breathe. From the bottom of your belly, take a deep breath.
3. Go deep.
Why are you afraid of failing?
In American culture, failure is viewed as shameful, as if a person must always get it right the first time around. Success is deemed as perfection, a view only seen from the top of the world when realistically success is built upon layers and layers of failure, from seeing the world from below. The fear of failure will only keep you treading water, trying desperately to keep your head above the surface, or keep you stuck wading in the shallow end.
To risk failure takes courage – courage to sink into the depths of the unknown. Dive deep into the darkness where few answers are found but better questions are discovered. Descend below the shallow waters of social media to submerge yourself in thick books and thought-provoking poetry. Decline the impulse to multitask; dare to plunge yourself into crafting one thing at a time.
Go deep. Dare to fail. Discover new truth below.