Big Goals

The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps.   (Proverbs 16:9)

About two weeks ago, a whole lot of people with good intentions sat down and wrote out goals for the upcoming year. Whether it was to lose 30 lbs. or to gain self-esteem, we decided to focus on at least one big thing to (hopefully) achieve by the time December 30 rolls around. It hasn’t been that long ago, so maybe you’re still successfully moving in the right direction toward achieving your goal. Good for you! Or, like someone I know, you might be staring at a new treadmill every morning with a cup of coffee in your hands wondering how hard it would be to walk and drink simultaneously, while calculating how much time is actually available before work and then deciding it’s not nearly long enough to get your heart rate up to calorie-burning speed. Sigh. Maybe tomorrow.

In between my bouts of staring at said treadmill this morning, [Yes okay it’s me! Can we just move along!] I was reading Word by Word, by Marilyn McEntyre, who says, “We can never take the full measure of the effects or outcomes of our work…. The results are in God’s hands. The process is our calling.”

The process… is our calling. Not the outcome or the effects our actions may have, but it is the process—the work itself—that is our true calling.

Ignoring the process while being overly focused on the result actually ends up derailing me. My goal can seem sooo big, and the journey to get there sooo long, that I become paralyzed in the here and now by just thinking about everything ahead of me. I get impatient with myself and depressed over my (perceived) lack of progress, and I end up doing nothing instead of saying, So what if I only have ten minutes before I have to get into the shower? That’s ten minutes of walking that I wouldn’t do otherwise.  Yes, the long-term goal is important, but the process of making good decisions one by one… that’s my calling.

The more I think about it, the more I can see all the ways I overlook the process in lieu of focusing on the finish line:  caring more about graduating from Seminary than getting every ounce I can from the classes I take, hurrying to finish just another assignment instead of contemplating God’s message to me as a student, rushing from home to work and back again while taking no notice of the sunrise, the landscape, the gifts of life God gave us. It’s going to take a LOT to reach my goals, both small and large; but the results of this day are in God’s hands.  The process is what I’m called to attend to, and I don’t want to miss a moment!

Father, thank you for the wisdom we’ve been given to set goals for ourselves. Keep us from being all-consumed by the pressure of results, and give us insight into how we are to love well every step we take on the journey. Thank you for your grace and mercy. Amen.