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  • Writer's pictureMarnie Hammar

New Year's Goal: Embrace Growth and Grace

Let’s talk about what just happened. Remember December? We taught our kids about Jesus' birth, we did the advent calendar, we bought the gifts, we looked at the lights. Then we rang in the New Year, packed up the holidays, and started back to school. It’s time for a group high five, right? But just when I think we can start breathing again, January marches in like a used-car salesman, peddling the many things we need to be perfect and shiny and new. 

Everywhere I look, the glittery temptations shout: New Year’s Resolutions that can’t fail. Foolproof goals for 2019. The perfect planner to make 2019 the best year yet. Diets. Cleanses. Decluttering. Personal training. Gym memberships. Closet cleaning. Carpet cleaning. New carpet…

If you’re feeling anything like I am right now, here’s what we both need to hear: Stop. Breathe. You’re okay.

By themselves, the promises offered in these headlines aren’t bad things. Health is good. Organization is good. Goals are good. And we all love a fresh start, don’t we? 

The problem is when we believe all of these claims will at last make us perfect. That is how we get all crazy and whacked out every New Year. (Confession: I did buy the planner. But it will not rule me!)

Why is perfection so tempting? January does all she can to make us think that’s what we want. But if I buy into the beauty and appeal of perfection, thinking this year will be different, I’m going to collapse into a heap of failure when I’m faced with the reality that I’m still not perfect. 

Or maybe instead, you have brilliantly decided to reject all of the New Year’s hype from the very beginning, knowing that you simply can’t add another failure to your list for 2019. I get it. That’s one of my favorites — if I can’t be perfect, I’m not even gonna try. Any of it. 

But wait. 

What if we decided to celebrate growth instead of perfection this year? 

What if, instead of seeing resolutions as a either success or failure, we embrace grace

Because. Growth and perfection don’t get along very well. In fact, perfection stunts growth. When we’re striving, performing, clawing at glory, we overlook progress. We condemn “good enough.” And sadly, we shelve grace for ourselves and others. 

But if we pause and breathe and think about the year ahead with a grace-filled, growth-focused mindset, we allow ourselves the opportunity to learn even in the face of unexpected challenge. Growth can happen whether we achieve our goals or not. (And I have a wealth of experience with growing most in supposed “failures,” which it turns out, means I didn’t fail after all…)

Here’s the kicker, my friends: Growth requires more heart work than perfection.

True growth comes only when we’re being honest with ourselves. Like the time I completely flipped out on my husband because he didn’t take the Christmas tree down when I wanted him to (ok, so this was just last week, but whatever…). I was bonkers crazy, stomping around my house, hauling boxes to the basement, maybe even launching a few things into the garage. Without saying a single word, I made it super clear that my house wasn’t perfect and I wasn’t happy… I wanted perfection in my great room, but the growth came when I acknowledged to myself and my husband that I was behaving like a toddler who missed about 18 naps. 

For 2019, what if we learned to ask ourselves how we can grow from each achievement, each challenge, and even from each goal we decide to totally kick to the curb? (You're totally allowed to do that, by the way.) What if, instead of believing we're failing, we turn and ask God what He is trying to teach us? What if, no matter whether we’re moving towards or away from something, we actually learned through it?

So go ahead — do what those wise goal-setting people tell us to do. Set your goals. Make them measurable. But then add this vital important step: reframe the goal by giving yourself grace to grow. Ask and pray about these kinds of questions: What season am I in right now and what is realistic for me? What have I learned even by just choosing this goal? If I achieved it, what can I take away from that? If I haven’t achieved it yet, what will it take to get there? How can I adjust and make it doable for this year? Or next year? 

In the end, when all of this world’s crazy is stripped away, and I’m standing at the pearly gates (thank you, Lord, for this hope we have!), God will not ask me if I kept my resolutions or met my goals for 2019. He’s most interested in whether I resolved to grow — towards Him and towards others.  

So maybe this year can look different. Let’s set aside the chasing and chaos and confusion. And let’s take a bold step towards January, embrace it for the fresh start that it is, and resolve to breathe and grow. 


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