New Beginnings and Constant Conversations
Updated: Mar 7, 2019
By Leigh-Ann Brisbin, co-founder of Free to Be Ministries
I saw a sign the other day that read, “365 days, 365 new chances”. Although that sign is a reminder that every day is a day to let go of the shame and regret of yesterday and begin with a clean slate today, there is something about it that is drastically missing and a bit hopeless. On January first of this year several people asked me what new years resolutions I had made. I laughed and said,"I don’t make new years resolutions because I never follow through with them". In part that is true but, for me, there is a deeper meaning to that statement. Don’t get me wrong, I think self-reflection, making goals for yourself, and setting standards in which to grow, are absolutely important. In the past, I felt it necessary to evaluate my life with the turning of the new year and set a goal regarding my marriage, parenting, career, tidiness, self-care, and spiritual journey. Personal inventory is crucial (and biblical), and my heart is to do the right things for the right reasons; spiritual growth, a healthier marriage and family life, using the gifts God has given me, and order in our home - all good things. Making a plan, setting up a structure with small attainable goals to help me succeed, and keeping my mind on the positive outcome I desired, kept me motivated. I know it takes commitment, consistency and repetition to make a new habit and strengthen a new thought process for the changed behavior to become more natural, so I applied that to my approach. It is what I would normally suggest in counseling to help others move into new patterns of behavior and in helping them to grow in their walk with Christ. It all logically makes sense and to some degree it is effective.
Unfortunately, like most people, I have an uncanny way of letting what’s good override what’s best and slip into areas of striving, performance and working out of my own strength. My own strength is an ugly place. Its deceiving. It works for a while until it doesn’t. When it does, it feeds my misdirected thoughts that self and the illusion of control are enough, so I must keep going. When it doesn’t, it feeds my internal insecurity, hopelessness and fear, so I must try harder or choose to give up. The same pattern always seems to exist in some format:
work hard at the goal --> experience positive results --> self-praise in the progress, -->
unforeseen circumstances outside of my control --> feeling overwhelmed/fear -->
the slow fade into complacency --> letting myself or others down --> and the internal and external voices of judgment and useless critique when I fail.
The enemy’s voice shouts “NOT GOOD ENOUGH”. I would believe it and revel in what supports it. Maybe it was the route in which I took that failed me, so I would try again with different ways and with new techniques to meet my underlying expectations or give up all together and become apathetic. I saw this pattern in my parenting, my marriage, my approaches to spiritual growth, my relationships with others, my professional life, my physical health and my attempts at a perfectly ordered home. Regardless of the best intentions, my tendency for striving, acceptance and control can easily bleed into my well-meaning desire for growth. The pendulum swing of emotion wrapped in self becomes a vicious cycle. It is exhausting. Do you know that place? The pressure of responsibilities and expectations that lead to anxiety, the place of apathy, disregard, and non-commitment because you are too overwhelmed, or the hopelessness of depression? It’s familiar because we all have situations from our past, and our learned ways to deal with them, that are buried deep within our subconscious and spill over into our present with little insight of how unhealthy they have become. I have sat with countless women who are in that place. They too are exhausted; unsure of why they can’t get free of sin behavior, can’t move forward in emotional/relational health, can’t seem to let go of control, struggling with what they know but not what they experience. There is a different way!
Several years ago, I realized that my obsessive need for control was stemming from fear, and my deeply rooted weeds of performance and unrealistically high expectations were not ones to be applauded. 365 days of opportunities for new chances was not a freeing thought if everyday was met with the same underlying hindrances and approaches to my life. In fact, they were choking out my peace and joy and effecting my ability to experience the one who had set me free. I was settling for the goal of good instead of seeking what was best, and I had been deceived. I was missing a huge factor in my spiritual, emotional and even physical health. Our culture is inundated with the idea that we arrive at our goals by doing what it takes to get there and that "doing" must come before "being". God was showing me that the very essence of “doing without Him/before Him”, “doing to meet goals I had set for my own purposes”, and "doing to self-protect", were self-destructive to my whole being and would not effectively grow my walk with Him. A.W. Tozer, in the pursuit of God, refers to this as the “veil of self”. What God desired was relationship with me. I believed that but didn’t fully understand it. He reminded me of the significance of Just being with Him and experiencing the power of His presence! That paradigm shift is not an easy one, but God was showing me to sit with Him and to listen, to walk and talk with Him, to change my expectations and outcomes of what I thought that should look like, and to be in constant conversation with Him.
When I was a little girl, my maternal grandparents would watch me a few days a week. I loved that undivided time with them. My grandfather had a large recliner chair in which he always sat. Sitting in His lap in that chair by far was my most favorite place to be. We could sit for hours. He would tell me stories about his life, share his thoughts, and tell me about what he saw in me. I could tell him anything, and everything I said was important to him. Sometimes it was silent and that was just as fulfilling. I remember thinking about how much I learned about him, how much he would teach me, and how I felt heard and safe in his lap. Those experiences are etched into my memory and have had lasting effects on my perspective of family, but also a pure reminder of what relationship with my Heavenly Father looks like. It’s a state of being! It is a place of dependence where I am reminded that as a believer in Christ, His Spirit is always with me, always leading, always protecting, always strengthening, always teaching, always listening, for my good and His glory.
In Luke 9:1-6, Before Jesus sent the disciples out on their first journey without Him, He called them together to be with Him. There he set the goal that would bring Him glory. He equipped them, gave instruction, power, authority, and a need for dependence on Him, rather than their own strength.
“When Jesus called the twelve together he gave them power and authority…and sent them out…He told them to take nothing for the journey…so they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.”
365 days, 365 opportunities to be in constant conversation and acknowledgment of Him. It is a beautiful thing. Everything permeates from that place. There He provides an understanding of who He is in light of my circumstances, responsibilities, and efforts. He provides a strength that is formed by the power of His presence, a direction of where/how He is calling, and a peace that He is in control. That is freedom!