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Live out love in the new year

First slide

I love Mondays. I know that affection for Mondays is not the norm, but I really do love them. I love the chance to begin again. I love the unwrinkled, tidy weekly planner page spread out before me. I love the idea of a new beginning. If Mondays are good, you can’t imagine the joy January brings me. Because I have a January birthday, it’s just the perfect month of fresh starts and all things new.

I have “begun again” enough times to truly understand that only God knows the future. I can make plans and set goals and resolve whatever I want, but the truth is I have very little control over a great many things. It’s easy to make an idol of my goals. It’s easy to buy into the self-improvement hype and think I can just resolve to do all the good things.

What I really need, though, is to step back from the noise and the clutter of all the voices in my life, and tune my heart to God’s insistent whisper: This is the good I plan for you. As I sit, pen to paper, pondering the pointed questions in my goal planner, I know that God wants from me only that I abide in Him and bear His fruit.

To abide is to sit, stay, be in His presence — early and often every day of this new year. That requires some planning; intimacy in relationships always does. When we are still and quiet in the presence of God and let Him direct our days, those days bear fruit. Good fruit isn’t an accident, though. It demands intention and diligence on our part. It’s good to take advantage of that fresh calendar and ask some challenging questions.

The beginning of a new year is an excellent opportunity to prune away the weeds so that the fruit can flower and then ripen. As a kindness to ourselves, we should pry away old hurts to which we stubbornly cling, but that ultimately weigh heavy on the branches and threaten their very existence. Let them go. Those old grievances are a blight.

Then, we ask ourselves if there is constructive criticism from trusted companions that we should consider without being defensive. Instead of framing this inquiry as a self-improvement exercise, we invite the Holy Spirit in and ask to be shown what needs to be amended through the lens of God’s grace.

Ultimately, our goal is always love. To really set good goals, the first question is how does God want me to love? If every plan we make is predicated on love, then the process of choosing when to say “yes” and when to say “no” becomes a simpler one. For every “yes” we ink into our planners, there will be at least one “no.” Often, there will be many more. Many of the times we choose to say “no,” we are turning away from the good in order to embrace the better. We can’t do or be everything. Discerning where we are truly called, invites the peace of Christ into what could have been frantic over-scheduling, and fruitlessly spinning wheels.

After quiet in the presence of God to do some discerning and set some goals, tell someone. Choose one trusted person and speak aloud what the Holy Spirit spoke to you. Let that person in, and be vulnerable when you share your desire to live life on purpose. Ask to be held accountable to a life of intention. If you are married, the most fruitful way to have this conversation is to share both your individual goals and some mutual goals with your spouse, holding loving well as the standard over all.

It’s a fresh new year, without blemishes or mistakes. It’s an opportunity to step out in faith and bask in grace. Seize it for all it’s worth and intentionally live out love in your life.

Foss, whose website is takeupandread.org, is a freelance writer from Northern Virginia.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018