It’s  a new year, time to think about what we did ( and didn’t do) last year and what we would like to do differently in the upcoming year.

Before setting my goals for this year, I’ve been trying to get in the habit of clarifying my values first and then making sure my goals are in harmony with what I truly value in life. I’ll explain more about that in another post.

In this process I was considering the difference between the values of love and peace. Those were two of the 15 values on my list and I was trying to put them in order from what is most to least important to me. I was having a hard time trying to prioritize one of those over the other and I decided you can’t have one without the other. I’m not sure they count as different things. A home with peace, but no love is not really peaceful, it’s just quiet. A home with love but no peace can’t really be said to be loving. They just go together.

To me peace means more than an absence of strife. It means harmony, tranquility and unity – all the result of people loving and caring for each other. In a home, in order to have true peace, it would have to be partnered with love.

As usual, those thoughts sent me down a mental rabbit trail. It happens a lot, can you relate? I realized that if I don’t have peace within myself, I can’t love myself fully. And, of course, the bible says we are to love others as we love ourselves. If we don’t fully love ourselves then our ability to love others is affected as well.

So, how can I grow in peace so I can also grow in love? Peace is a fruit of the Spirit, which is produced in us as we cultivate our relationship, and acknowledge our dependence on, God. Peace comes from living as our true selves, the self God created us to be. If we don’t have peace but are instead experiencing unease, double mindedness and unsettled feelings within ourselves it may be because we are not being true to who God called us to be.

It is an issue of obedience. God makes it clear to us what He created us for, if we ask with an open heart and humble spirit. However, if we know the answer and don’t respond in obedience, we will be unsettled, frustrated, and without peace in our life. We may think “But I don’t really know what God is calling me to, I don’t know my purpose.” Yet, on some level, we know. It’s right in front of us.

If you truly aren’t sure what God’s call is on your life, ask Him. He isn’t keeping it a secret. He wants you to fulfill your purpose because it is part of His larger purpose for His church. Usually if we don’t know our purpose, it’s not because God hasn’t made it clear to us, it’s because it’s not the answer we wanted.

Ouch. I don’t say that to be mean spirited or judgmental. I deal with it too. I know my call, at this season of life, is to be:

  1. A faithful child of God
  2. The best wife I can be
  3. The best mother I can be
  4. A Professional leadership coach
  5. A writer and teacher

But I want to do other things, different things. I don’t always feel like spending time with God. Yup, that is the truth. Just because I’m a bible teacher it doesn’t mean I’m a super spiritual saint. I struggle with keeping God as my focus instead of the chaos of my daily life, just like everyone else. But when I don’t spend time with Him, when I’m not putting my energies into those 5 things He has put before me, I end up frustrated, stuck, overwhelmed and stressed out.

In that state, it is impossible to love myself. Instead I beat myself up mentally. I try to find ways to be more organized and disciplined thinking that will help me accomplish the things I want to get done. I try new time management systems in an effort to get things under control so I will feel better about myself and my life.

In reality, I’m like my dog Maggie when she’s chasing a squirrel instead of doing her agility training with me. Instead of coming to me when I call her, she skitters around the yard, barking frantically and careening from one tree to the next trying to figure out where those squirrels have gone. She never catches them; it just tires her out and amuses the squirrels.

How often do we do the same thing? We run from one urgent task to the next, putting out fires and trying to be all things to all people, only to end up barking up the wrong tree, tired and frazzled. We wonder why our life seems so pointless. We beat ourselves up for not being organized enough, or talented enough or smart enough, or whatever our favorite self-criticism is. There is no peace, joy or sense of fulfillment in our life.

This point was brought home to me during the last holiday season. One of the many things I do is technical support for our church worship team. I run the computer and create the background graphics to go with whatever programs are happening. Did you notice that is not on the list of things God has called me to?

It’s not a bad thing to be helping out at church. God certainly exhorts us to fellowship with other believers and use our gifts and talents to build up the body – see Ephesians chapter 4. However, I spent a tremendous amount of time making the graphics for 3 different Christmas services plus the backgrounds for the children’s program. It took hours and hours of “chasing squirrels” in order to get the perfect graphics done.

When it was all over, I realized no one noticed or cared about all that work. I realized I had knocked myself out with tiny details that no one else would even be aware of. They didn’t enhance the program in any way. I did it because I wanted to, not because God called me to be the graphic designer for our church media needs.

It wasn’t a bad thing to do, but it wasn’t the best thing to do either. I sacrificed a lot of hours of time that God did not ask for. He asks for obedience. Just as Saul lost his place as king over Israel because he chose sacrifice over obedience, I lost a chance to be in God’s peace and perfect will. Instead of a joyful, fruitful Christmas season, it was stressful and unpleasant.

Frankly, I was glad when Christmas was over! Like many people, I find Christmas to be an awful lot of work with very little fun. And this is exactly why we don’t find the joy in Christmas, we put all kinds of time, money and effort into doing things we aren’t called to do and that other people really don’t need or notice.

One of my goals is to re-think how I spend my time every day, not just at Christmas time. I want to find peace, joy and fulfillment in all that I do by being obedient to what I am called to do and saying no to the rest.