As a new year approaches, or shortly after it begins, do you reflect on areas in which you see a need to change? Do you ask God to reveal to you areas of life in which He desires renewal for you? Due to past failure in resolution-keeping, and the self-badgering that often follows, are you turned off by the idea of sitting down and writing specific resolutions for the key areas of your life? Is the Spirit of God at work within you, causing turbulence or discontent concerning areas that He wants to overhaul?
If any of those questions resonate with you, you’ll want to read this post.
Years ago I gave up writing New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps the practice works for some folks, but not for me. Within a month or two I’d fail in areas such as weight loss, relationships, and ministry endeavors, then I’d fall into a downward spiral of self-criticism.
Oh, I know the necessity and value of goal-setting in areas such as money management, business, and vocational ministry. In my leadership classes at Columbia International University, I included sessions on thinking ahead and crafting goals that meet certain criteria. And I’ve applied those lessons in several spheres of life. Yet my tendency to write idealistic goals for myself for each new year, combined with the habit of being rough on myself when I fall short of expectations, sabotaged my resolutions.
Instead, this year I launched the process of choosing ONE WORD, prayerfully considered, that captures how I want God to work in my life in 2022. (I’ll write about this soon, revealing my word choice for the year and describing how the choice is affecting me. To a large extent, that one word for 2022 inspired this poem.)
One new thing I’ve accomplished since January 1, in light of nettlesome inner stirrings of discontent that God’s Spirit prompted, is writing the following poem. Perhaps this is a means of goal-setting, at least when it comes to identifying spheres of life that need renewal. The lyrics refer to areas of life where I feel a deep need to change in 2022: my attitude toward recent bodily pain and vulnerability to depression, key family relationships, and my need to balance ongoing ministry opportunities with more rest and play.
See if you can identify with parts of the poem.
After the poem, in Part 2 of the post, I’ll identify thought processes and areas of Spirit-conviction that fueled my writing.
I Want To Live Before I Die
I want to live before I die;
to laugh aloud more than I cry;
to wake each day with gratitude;
to don a cheerful attitude.
To trust Christ more and worry less.
To live, less sensitive to stress.
When trials come, stay undeterred,
fueled by the truth within God’s Word.
To know that pain is temporary.
When I’m needy, grace won’t tarry,
for God is good and in control;
my joy and fruitfulness, His goal.
To believe He’ll redeem my pain.
Since He is wise, then why complain?
I want to live before I die,
to smile more often than I sigh,
my merry countenance revealing
that life with Jesus is appealing.
To take my bride on day-long dates
before my health deteriorates.
To fly a kite with my grandson.
Ride waterslides--oh my, what fun!
Take each grown son on a long trip;
become a friend, build fellowship.
To pause and watch as squirrels play;
To smell gardenias in May.
To search for rainbows in the sky;
watch sparrows frolic while they fly.
To squish dewdrops with my bare feet
before they’re gone, dispelled by heat.
To watch a cat licking his paw,
then wash his face and head. What awe!
To serve God, yes! but not ignore
my need for rest: less becomes more!
My schedule needs an overhaul;
not every need is the Lord’s call.
I’ll recall times I’ve imploded
so I won’t get overloaded.
Say “No” often. The reason why?
My God will live after I die!
What Inspired the Poem?
Implications of Belief
The first stanza, prior to the first line of white space, is the longest one. This section reveals my desire to balance the gloominess that typically accompanies depression episodes with more positive attitudes, such as gratitude. To focus more on biblical truths that should instill greater happiness. To believe that God is good and sovereign, even over the recent escalation of bodily pain and my continued vulnerability to depression. (I teach and write about God’s sovereignty, but it’s a doctrine far easier to “believe” and to teach than to apply.)
Does my more-often-than-not downcast countenance indicate that I don’t really believe that God is sovereign? Without minimizing the debilitating emotional pain that accompanies a depressive episode, can the primary trajectory of my life showcase the joy that God desires for His people? Have I given excessive attention to the difficulty of living with major depression at the exclusion of reveling in the benefits of my faith in Christ?
Those are a few of the questions percolating inside me this January.
The second stanza reveals my felt need, implanted by the Lord, for implementing changes in my family relationships. Such changes necessarily involve time. For several years now, since I retired from full-time teaching, I’ve intended to spend more time with my wife, sons, and grandson, but I haven’t followed through to the extent that I had anticipated.
During a recent prayer time, the Holy Spirit reminded me of a gravestone epitaph. Someone chiseled these words along the top: “Here lies a man who was always “going to…” Then across the bottom of the gravestone, you see these words: “Now he’s gone.”
The third stanza reveals my desire to notice the delights of nature and God’s creation, including the animal kingdom. I tend to pass by many opportunities to see God’s wonder and majesty. The prolific 19th-century preacher, Charles Spurgeon, who experienced deep bouts of depression, often found relief by taking long walks and observing the natural beauty of the outdoors. Spurgeon’s focus on nature ramped up his happiness and evoked praise within him for God and His attribute of creativity.
Selectivity in Choosing Ministries
In the final stanza, I acknowledge that my ministry calling didn’t end when I retired from full-time teaching in 2019. On the other hand, due to declining energy and physical infirmities that accompany aging, I must choose wisely and not view every opportunity offered to me as God’s will for my life. God doesn’t endorse every offer that I receive to supply a pulpit, to write an article, or to lead a seminar. If I’m more discriminating in choosing what to write and how often to teach or to preach, I will have reserved the physical, mental. and emotional margin that’s necessary for implementing the needed areas of change cited in the previous stanzas.
Ironically, doing less for the Lord may enable me to accomplish more for Him. I must never entertain the notion that God needs me and cannot get along without me! As I wrote the last two lines of the poem, I remembered this maxim: Cemeteries are filled with indispensable people.
I want to live before I die. Do you?
Cup your ears. Do you hear Him? Listen carefully…What is God’s Spirit whispering to you right now?