I have so much growing to do.
Can you relate?
There have been seldom few times in my life where I feel like I actually have things together. At least mostly. But every time that thought crosses my mind, something else happens to show me just how far I have yet to go. How much growing I still need to do.
And I am thankful for it. For God’s nudges and reminders that I’m far from perfect. How can I become arrogant if my own flaws, faults, and mistakes are constantly obvious? I don’t think there’s anything more humbling than realizing just how broken and flawed we are.
If the story ended there, it wouldn’t just be humbling, it’d be depressing. And it still can be sometimes. I struggle not to let perfectionism get the best of me, but it’s often difficult, and when I just can’t do something right no matter how hard I try, my mood plummets.
The only thing that makes it better, that can take our imperfections and bring a sense of hope, is knowing God’s here helping us grow. He never intended for sin to dirty His perfect creation. He made us very good. And while we’ll never be perfect again until Heaven, with His help, we can still grow and better ourselves.
Every year, every month, every week, and every day, we can follow Him and strive to be better people than we were the minutes before. As humans, we’re always changing. That change can be for the better.
In previous posts1, I’ve mentioned what I like to do for the New Year, rather than setting resolutions. And that’s to choose a growth word for each year. A theme. Something to focus on improving at and growing in over the next twelve months.
Of course I should continue trying to grow in that quality or trait always, not just one year. But it helps to focus on it for a while. To really be intentional about making changes. A jumpstart to my growth that I’ll then work to maintain and continue in for years to come.
So far I’ve chosen love (2019), trust (2020), and courage (2021). This year, for 2022, I’m choosing balance.
I’ve always had an all-or-nothing personality. When I’m excited about something, or feeling inspired, I will give my all and work very hard to accomplish things. I’ve made some really big changes in my life while I’m motivated. It’s an amazing feeling, as I watch the progress and positive changes build. I can be ambitious and driven – to a fault.
And usually, the main fault is that I burn out. Depending on what I’m working hard at, I can burn out after months, or after only several days. And as soon as I lose my inspiration, I’m done. I just fizzle out and wonder why I did any of it. It feels impossible, and I stop accomplishing things. Often, I slowly fall back to the way things were before.
Only, it always feel worse to go back to the ways things were before after I’ve just experienced so much change. Suddenly what I was at least somewhat content with before seems unbearable. Which eventually spurs me on to make another drastic change – and the cycle repeats.
Year after year, I’ve seen myself do this in basically every area of my life.
In my health: as I’ve jumped into extreme exercise and strict eating plans that might make me feel better for a while, but aren’t sustainable for long. Maybe it’s too time-consuming, draining, or because it actually ends up causing harm if continued long-term. I’m motivated by the immediate changes, but burn out quickly from the intensity.
In my writing: as I get super excited by some amazing new idea for a story and determine to write upwards of 2,000 words a day to get it written quickly. Except, I can’t keep that up for long. And instead of dropping to a manageable amount, I tend to give up entirely. It wasn’t that great an idea anyway… And besides, it’ll take too long to finish. What’s the point?
In any hobby or skill I’m trying to improve at: I might feel super motivated to learn a new language, to play another instrument, or to make an intricate craft, but if it takes too long and I don’t see significant improvement, I can lose sight of why I wanted to do it in the first place. I should work at it little by little, but instead I lose motivation.
This happens even and especially in my spiritual life; in my relationship with God. That passion and burning devotion to Him is wonderful when it spurs me to pray more, study the Bible more intensely, and seek His will for my life more than ever before. But somehow, despite truly knowing better, I convince myself that unless I’m spending every waking moment studying and locking myself away to pray, then I’m doing it wrong. And when I can’t maintain the schedule I want, the spark fizzles down, and I do far too little instead.
It’s a real problem, and I know it. I need patience and consistency. I need to learn to find a balance between both extremes: too much and too little. Trying to do too much will only lead to doing too little eventually. And both can be very harmful.
Last year (2021), I focused on developing more courage. I was very intentional about trying new things, learning new skills, meeting new people, and stepping into new roles – even if they scared me or were far outside my comfort zone. And I think I succeeded. There were many new things in my life last year, and they’ve continued into 2022. God’s blessed me through all of them. I still have a long journey in my courage, but I’m continuing to grow.
However, in true ‘me’ fashion, I was so focused on filling my schedule with new things that I rarely stopped to consider whether they were smart. Whether I actually could handle yet another new thing at that moment. So while I learned a lot, and am truly thankful for all the new experiences, by the end of the year, I was burnt out.
I had mini-meltdowns numerous times over the year, only continuing because I’d promised and really had no choice but to keep going. There wasn’t anything wrong with the thing itself; nothing I did was bad. It was just another object in my schedule, and I only have so much energy, enthusiasm, and brainpower to go around. I found myself actually dreading things I used to love, just because they felt so overwhelming. Even writing, and this blog.
When it came time to think about a growth word for this year, it seemed pretty obvious. Somehow, I need to find a balance. I can’t continue to sign up for new things and take on more responsibilities unless I’m sure I can handle them and do my best. I can’t continue pushing my body even when there’s nothing left for it to give. I can’t promise to do so much for other people that I don’t have any time and energy to give to God.
Funny how you don’t really appreciate balance until you’ve let it go.
Now, I know that this might sound pathetic to many people. Everyone has busy schedules. Everyone struggles with being tired and feeling overwhelmed. Everyone wishes they had more time on their hands for things they’d rather do. And I know that I’m just going to have to get used to that in many ways.
I can’t just quit all my jobs and cancel all my responsibilities. I can’t stop seeing everyone (nor would I want to). I can’t spend all my time focused on doing things I find fun or relaxing, and never learn new things or make sure I’m preparing for the future. But it’s actually a very good thing that I can’t. That wouldn’t be balance either – it’d be selfish.
Balance, to me, is being busy, but with things I know I’m supposed to be doing. Spending time with people I know God’s calling me to spend time with. Working jobs and taking on responsibilities that I can truly give my best to, and where I can be a witness for Him during. Taking care of myself so I have the mental clarity and physical stamina to do whatever He calls me to do. And most of all, being sure I put Him first in my priorities.
There are a lot of good things I could spend my time and energy on. But that doesn’t mean they’re all the right things. God will give me the ability to handle everything He wants me to do. It’s when I step beyond that and try to take things in my own hands that I run into trouble. So I want to learn how to better distinguish between those this year.
I’m already making changes, and figuring out which things I should slowly adjust or step away from if I can. And it’s a slow process. But that’s okay. I’ll keep praying about it and working at it, and I know that God will help me as I seek to still be courageous – just only in the situations He wants me to be in. Everything goes better when I do things His way.
So this year, I’m going to strive for balance. In my health, my work, my hobbies, my writing, and my relationship with God and with others. That’s officially my 2022 growth word.
What would you pick?
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid,
but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
(2 Timothy 1:7 NIV)