I hesitate to admit this out loud, especially because 2016 was fraught with so much tension, destruction, and heartache for so many, but 2016 was a good year for me. One of my best ever, in fact.
I say this not because of any achievements, awards, amazing book sales, or fabulous professional opportunities — none of those things happened, actually. I don’t call 2016 good because of any external accomplishments and not because of any extrinsic goals that were pursued and met, but simply because during those 365 days I was transformed deeply and wholly from the inside out.
Going into 2016, I didn’t have the faintest inkling this would happen. But coming out on the other side, I know it’s true. I am a new person on this, the fourth day of January, 2017, a different person than I was a year ago today.
I have an idea of who I am and where I am going, perhaps for the first time in my life. I have a confidence, a self-assuredness I didn’t know was inside me. And most of all, I have a peace in me I didn’t even know was possible.
This newness, this new life, is changing the way I do and think about everything.
I’ve always been a big NewYear’s resolution maker. If you’ve been reading here for a while, you might remember a post or two about that. Over the years I’ve resolved to read the Bible more, limit computer time in the evenings, go to bed earlier, get up earlier, run more regularly, be on social media less, improve my microbiome health (don’t ask) and start flossing. I’ve kept some of those resolutions (for a while at least); others I dropped before I even got started (ahem, flossing).
This year, though, for the first time in as long as I can remember, I didn’t make any hard and fast New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I thought a little bit about who I am and where I think, God willing, I’m going, and I began to put some pieces into place that might help move those plans forward.
This year, I’m less about the letter of the law and more about a gentle easing, less about forcing a stringent rubric on myself, and more about embracing the softer rhythm and pace I know is best for me.
Don’t get me wrong. My Type A, #3-on-the-Enneagram self still loves resolutions. But for now, for this time and place, I also know they aren’t for me in 2017.
“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that,” Paul advised the Galatians. “Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.” (6:4-5, The Message)
Who are you?
Knowing the answer to that small but powerful question is the key, the foundation, the stepping stone to everything else in Paul’s statement and beyond. If you don’t know who you yet are, you must begin there, because no number of well-crafted resolutions can determine that quintessential answer for you.
You must begin at that daunting and perhaps even frightening place — Who am I? — and together with God uncover the answer.
I think that’s what I did in 2016…or at least what I started to do. I stepped into that small, powerful, sometimes scary question — Who am I? — and began to uncover the answer.
And it’s changed everything.
I’m not saying I have it all figured out. I suspect this will be a lifelong journey. I suspect I’ve really only just begun. But I will say with confidence that in 2016, without even really intending to (at least initially), I made a careful exploration of who I am and the work I have been given. And now, today, as I glance backward and look ahead, I am beginning to see the fruits of that deep soul work. These fruits may not ever be evident to anyone outside my most immediate circle of close friends and loved ones, but they are there nonetheless.
So that’s my advice for you, friends, as we step with hope and optimism into this new year. Make a careful exploration of who you are. Take a deep breath and ask the hard question — Who am I? Keep asking it, again and again. Pause, listen, and ask again, until you begin to hear the faintest whisper rising up from deep within your soul.
And then begin to walk with God into the answer.