I love the New Year.
There are few things in life I enjoy more than self-improvement. Perhaps I am a glutton for punishment, but a whole season devoted to developing new goals and habits makes me giddy with excitement. What part or parts of myself do I want to focus on this year? Should I run more? Or eat healthier? Or learn a new language? Or develop a new hobby? Or lose weight? Or plant a garden? Or drink more water? Or redecorate my house? Or all of the above?
As the old year has drawn to a close, I enjoy reflecting on the progress I made and the areas I want to improve upon in this new year.
But if I’m being honest with myself, underneath the possibilities and the excitement is the fundamental assumption: I should change because I’m not good enough as-is.
I am really, really good at changing myself. I wish I could be proud of that statement, but I’m not, because I know the motivation of my heart.
Many years ago, I had a friend tell me, “Natalie, one of the things I appreciate about you the most is that you never stop looking for a way to change for the better.” At the time I was incredibly flattered—someone noticed all my hard work! Over the years, however, I’ve begun to see the ugly truth about my motivations.
I was the friendless child. I was the little girl with a big heart and no social skills. I made an easy target for ridicule and rejection. And I hated it. I don’t know that there are words strong enough to express the kind of self-loathing and loneliness I felt.
But I had one secret weapon: I was a natural student of human behavior. I would ruthlessly assess my shortcomings and then systematically observe someone who was strong in that area or who demonstrated a skill I admired until I had mastered that skill as well. Were my clothes making me a target? I figured out fashion and trends. Was my vocabulary making me sound pretentious? I listened to my peers to pick up slang and idioms to sound more acceptable.
I viewed my life as a project. I believed if I could perfect myself, I would no longer be rejected. If I could erase the weaknesses and flaws, I would have friends.
And while I could quote all the right Bible verses about how much God loved me, and how He sent His son to die for me, sins and flaws and all, on a very deep subconscious level, I was incapable of believing that anyone could love me as-is – even God.
Change can be good, but when done out of fear, it becomes a trap.
I have been trapped in a cycle of self-perfection.
This year, God has asked me not to make resolutions that add to my life. I don’t need more habits, or disciplines, or hobbies. I don’t need more busyness.
What I need is more Jesus and less of the lies.
So this year I resolve to let go of my perfection, to let go of the comparison, to let go of the pretenses that I have built up to keep the real me safe from ridicule and rejection.
I’m cleaning house this year to make room for more Jesus.