I always look back at the end of the year and think about the highlights, and low lights of the year and set goals for the new year. I guess it's something most people do, but I always do it right before midnight on the 31st. I've been very down on myself and my progress recently, which isn't helping me to improve. Because improving, drawing closer to God each year, each month, each day, that's the goal. My over-analyzing and criticizing myself isn't helping me to reach this goal.
Maybe it's because I'm looking at it from the inside, where everything blurs together and I see either a long flat line or feel like I'm at the bottom... only looking up at the progress I want to make, and not noticing the little (and sometimes the bigger) steps up I've made. Because I am growing. Because my prayer life today is much stronger than it was a year ago. My faith is more solid and steadfast today because I'm learning that faith isn't about me. It's about Him. It's about surrender and trust. And it's about not trying to do everything and fix everything on my own. It's about realizing that there's a reason God gave us free will. Not so we can persist in trying to do everything on our own, but so that we'll find joy in the surrender. So that we will actively choose to allow ourselves to be loved by Him. Because when we let Him into our lives, we let Him work through us.
A couple months ago, everywhere I turned the parable of the mustard seed kept coming up. It's strange because I've read this parable so many times, but it kept showing up, and I kept feeling confused. I thought I understood it, but then I realized that while I understood the words and the story, it hadn't actually taken root in my heart. I was missing the bigger picture. For some reason, it had never really registered with me that it wasn't the mustard seed- sized faith that could move mountains. It was the growth of that faith. But the mustard seed part is the most important... and that's the part that I usually don't give enough credit to. Because that's when it needs to be nurtured the most. That's when it needs to be cared for, tended to, protected. And that's the time when it's sometimes hardest to find it. And it's way too easy to grow discouraged. But the faith is there, freely given to us, and that little bit grows. That little bit is the biggest gift because it grows. Because it doesn't stay small forever.
So it's a little early to set my goals for next year... and maybe this will be expanded upon later. But for now, it's simple. A year from now, when I'm looking back at 2014, I want to be able to say that my faith is stronger. That my prayer life is better, and that I'm doing a better job of listening to the "gentle proddings of the Spirit" in my life. I had written that phrase last February as a topic for a future blog post, but I can't remember why. It's a beautiful phrase, and certainly the way that I usually experience Him... gently, softly calling. A year from now, I want to be closer to Him so that I hear that voice more strongly.