Category - intimacy

Why I Don’t Make New Year’s Resolutions

New-Years-Resolutions-Faith
New Year’s Resolutions are normal, healthy, logical, and helpful. They springboard and incentivize us towards positive change. I understand why we make them, and why I made them for a good portion of my life. But when I consider the driving motivation for me personally with these January commitments to myself, it clearly reminds me why I stopped.

Resolutions are typically prompted by a feeling of discontent. At the end of December, something feels unsettled, unresolved, and lingering. Like “more” could have been done, or should have been done. This largely manifests in two ways:

  • More in the professional sense (better job, higher income, growth of business, more property, more investments)
  • More in the personal sense (wiser spending habits, being a better person, more time with family and friends, getting organized, enjoying life to the fullest, higher levels of health and fitness)

I am a fan of all of these. A huge fan. I want you to do them. But I just want you to remember that next year – while you’re doing all of these things, after you’ve done all of these things – you will still struggle with discontent. Even after accomplishing the really noble ones. Really. You will.

Maybe you already know this, but it took me a long while to really get it. Year after year, I kept thinking that if I just got better and better and better in all areas of my life – through more commitments to myself, more tweaks to my system of doing things, more goals and triumphs, more esteem and approval from my employer and peer group, more good times with family and friends – the discontent would go away. Forever. Never to return. And I’d be finally fully satisfied because I was now Sameer v2.0, or 3.0, or 10.0.

And so I made some New Year’s Resolutions, where I:

  • gave up soda
  • worked out more
  • earned my degrees
  • published papers
  • got promoted
  • bought a home
  • gained more followers on social media
  • went on more adventures
  • finally set up a 401K
  • watched more TED talks
  • read more books
  • learned more life hacks
  • spent more time with family
  • began guitar lessons
  • volunteered in the community
  • drank more water

But the discontent remained. I could tell myself that it was gone – that I was living out my days in the best possible of ways, pursuing excellence and accomplishment and fitness and adventure and success – but it would slowly show up again. I could forcefully shut the door on my discontentment, and barricade it out with a litany of goals and achievements and rationalizations and arguments, but it would still creep in under the sill and find its way back into my life like a mold.

And so I have gotten back to basics over the last handful of years – not perfectly, but in large measure. I’ve gotten back to a committed pursuit of God, and the priority of daily intimacy with Him. This is my number one mission, no matter what. Now to be honest, it doesn’t happen every single day. But He knows that it is my heart’s desire, and that I am doing my best. And that is what matters to Him.

“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.” ~ John 4:14

To followers of Christ, this makes sense, and you realize that this is the answer. You’ve experienced Him being your everything, and all that you need and want, and how glorious and truly satisfying it is. But it’s so easy to lose it, to have lost it. Especially with so many daily and hourly pressures and pushes and pulls, along with cultural and societal messages that indirectly and directly cause us to lose focus.

To those who have never walked with Christ, I know this sounds weird and churchy and completely out of touch with the way the world works, and with all that you know (and all you’ve been told) about doing life. I totally get that.

But if you struggle with some level of discontentment every year, and you continue to assume that the answer has to be “more” (fitness, money, degrees, popularity, relationships, you name it), I just want to suggest that it will likely leave you right where you started when it comes to fulfillment, and when it comes to peace. From my experience, what you truly want and need will ultimately remain elusive. Maybe from your experience as well, as you look back over the last handful of years.

“If we have not quiet in our minds, outward comfort will do no more for us than a glass slipper on a gouty foot.” ~ John Bunyan

But perhaps you’re thinking, “WAIT – this time could be different. This new year – if I can just make certain things happen – everything will finally work out, and be awesome, and I’ll have arrived.”

You’re welcome to try. I hope it works out for you this time. Or the following year. Or the year after that. It just never did for me, and for basically everyone else I know with a few decades behind them.

What I have found is that His love and presence and closeness is better than life. Better by leaps and bounds. And it doesn’t leave me missing something, or searching for more to resolve the tension between where I am and where I think I need to be.

And here is the kicker, and what I think is so amazing as it relates to the end-goal of New Year’s Resolutions: an intimate, abiding relationship with God inspires and directs and guides me to pursue the personal and professional goals that I want and that He wants for me. And when both of us are fully on board, it’s so much better because I know He’s in them, and they’re the best He has for me, and that He will help make them happen. It’s not just me, all alone – year after year – deciding to chase after this, that, and the other to keep a gnawing but pervasive sense of dissatisfaction at bay. And I’m not left to just spin and sputter in futility. He’s helping set the goals, orchestrate the action plans, and always there along the way to bless, encourage, and support me.

“You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in You.” ~ St. Augustine

Don’t make resolutions in another well-meaning attempt to resolve the discontent you currently feel. You’ll soon enough find something else you think you need to have, or do, or become. Instead, inquire of God – not blindly, but thoughtfully, considerately, and genuinely. Take a chance on Him being real, active, unconditionally loving, and wanting to be meaningfully involved in your life. And, if He shows Himself strong (as I know He will), resolve to pursue Him and His heart above all else. The personal and professional success will take care of itself along the way, but will pale in comparison to what you find truly matters, and truly fulfills.

Give this a go in the new year. You have nothing to lose, and absolutely everything to gain.

Image source: http://bit.ly/2h99FEt

Are You Safe To Be Yourself in Your Marriage?

safe-to-be-yourself
Lately I have been reflecting on the passion, energy, and effort involved when a guy really likes a girl and just wants to be with her. You know, when he’s past the uncertainty and has made up his mind that she’s the one for him for forever, and he goes all gung-ho pursuing her and trying to win her heart. I mean, this hypothetical guy spends time in the gym to get ripped, and he works hard to look and dress his absolute best. He comes up with extravagant and creative ideas for dates, and he remembers pretty much everything she says. He texts her thoughtful sentiments just to let her know he’s thinking about her. He’s incredibly sweet, courteous, and patient and rarely has a bad attitude when she’s around. He is funny and light-hearted and witty, and he always wants to put his best foot forward. Honestly, his goal is for every interaction with her to leave her feeling loved, and like she’s floating on a breeze. And, just wanting more and more and more of him.

He comes up with extravagant and creative ideas for dates, and he remembers pretty much everything she says…. He texts her thoughtful sentiments just to let her know he’s thinking about her….

That was me.

And then I got married.

I sometimes joke with my wife Rachel about the day she’s going to come home and find me relaxing all slouched and lumpy on the couch in front of the television watching some trashy reality TV show. I’ll just be laying there in my boxers, unshaven and unkempt. And there’s going to be wrappers and empty cans littered around me. And I’m going to be picking potato chip crumbs out of my chest hair while she looks on in horror….

Not a pretty sight, I know. But that image is hilarious to me; I’m smiling to myself just thinking about it. Now that I’m married, I can let myself go, right?

It’s not that I wasn’t myself while we were dating, it’s just that the fear of being rejected fueled my desire to be as perfect as possible (raise your hand if you’ve been there!), and not introduce any unnecessary question marks into the relationship at an inopportune time. Since then, we have had plenty of hard conversations before and after we were engaged so that we each understood each other’s struggles. Honesty and vulnerability has to happen prior to marriage. However, now that we are almost ten months after we made our vows, I don’t feel like I have to prove or earn my love for her. I just need to do my best every day to be all that she needs me to be – and that is enough. And I am doing my best, on all levels, when it comes to taking care of myself so I can be in great health to run around with our future kids (God willing), when it comes to making a living and managing the finances, when it comes to tackling major projects and being a good helpmate around the house, and when it comes to loving her in meaningful and tangible ways.

The fear of being rejected fueled my desire to be as perfect as possible, and not introduce any unnecessary question marks into the relationship at an inopportune time.

I tried to be the best boyfriend in the world, and now I am trying to be the best husband in the world. But those two seasons of life are, as I’m clearly realizing, totally different.

Now that I have won Rachel’s heart, and promised my unending and singular devotion to her and her alone – and received the same promise from her – I can feel safe in her love. I can take a deep breath, and exhale slowly. I can let the whole of myself show, warts and all, and know that it will be okay. I don’t need to keep scrambling and striving for perfection to get her to fall for me. I don’t have to compete with all the other guys who have rightfully vied for her attention and affection. We are together, and it is forever. She chose me, all of me. And I chose her, all of her.

I don’t need to keep scrambling and striving for perfection to get her to fall for me. I don’t have to compete with all the other guys who have rightfully vied for her attention and affection.

And I am finally discovering on a personal, visceral level that this is where the truest form of intimacy is found, and the best part of the marriage relationship. I had heard a lot about marriage being awesome because of this “intimacy” thing for years before I got hitched, but now it’s actually making sense – not just in my head, but in my heart. And in my life.

Now that I am married, I can let myself go. It’s a living, breathing, ever-evolving process. I’m choosing to slowly reveal more and more of my heart to Rachel, trusting that she will choose to see the best in me. And as she hears more of my heartbeat, our relationship grows. And she is encouraged to let herself go. I don’t want her to feel like she has to be perfect and prove herself worthy of my love. I just want her to share more of her heartbeat with me, so that our relationship can keep growing. To be honest, some of it is messy, and doesn’t have the varnish with which we coated many things while dating. Instead, it’s more stark, and more real. And more human.

We are plumbing new depths.

Image source:
http://bit.ly/2vmPOGf

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