Change Me: A New Year's Prayer

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

We're now a full two (almost three!) weeks into 2016, and I've still yet to craft any New Year's Resolutions for myself.

Well, actually, no.  That's not exactly true.  I've drafted a few lists, drawing on inspiration from internet articles boasting the best ideas for resolutions, and from decisions that others have made as they've stepped forth into 2016.  Some, like those of the "eat more vegetables" or "master a new skill" variety, were serious, and some, like "hone your car karaoke skills," verged on the silly, and I compiled my lists with the same care and meticulousness I apply to every endeavor.

And I think it's that very characteristic -- that fastidiousness -- that speaks to the problem with New Year's Resolutions for me.  It's not necessarily an issue of follow-through, as the case seems to be with many people, that keeps me from committing to them.  I have no problem holding myself accountable when I deem something worth my while.

As a perfectionist, though, I tend to approach New Year's Resolutions from a place of feeling like I need to "fix" everything that I perceive is wrong with me.  I need to be more patient with and forgiving of myself and others.  I need to stop comparing myself to other people, and not worry so much about what they think of me.  I need to avoid gossip.  I need to stop overthinking and take more chances.  I need to be more present and productive.

It's a tall order.  And certainly these are honorable intentions, but it's hard to measure up to them because I feel I am expecting perfection from myself.  Improvement in something so general as "life" is already hard enough to quantify, since there are few objective ways to measure it.  And it's disappointing, at the end of a year, to look back and feel like I haven't made much of a difference in, well, anything, because I haven't lived up to my own expectations.  It's difficult to measure change in retrospect, a phenomenon perhaps best described by C.S. Lewis: "Isn't it funny how day by day, nothing changes, but when you look back, everything's different?"

I am, however, usually keenly aware of the moments when I'm at the threshold of change.  They're the moments when my mind and my heart are in conflict, when I want to step toward growth, but instead I'm drawn toward the comfort and complacency found in familiar patterns of behavior.  These are the moments where true improvement takes root for me, and so I want to learn to recognize more of them, and seize the opportunities therein.

I'm quite fond of the quote that goes something like this: "Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step.  Tiptoe if you must, but take the step."

That is what I want for 2016.  I don't need to be perfect, because that's not what God asks of me.  God created me for a special purpose in this world, and if there's one thing I want most for my life, this year and always, it's to grow into that a little bit more every day.  But I can't do that alone.  I want the courage and strength to tiptoe into a better version of myself, one that isn't marked by a neat list of resolutions to check off, but rather by the courage to say this short prayer on a daily basis:

Change me, Lord.

I am ready.

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