Here is something you should know if you want to be a successful adult: moving does not happen on its own.
I know. I just moved to a new apartment. And I’m tired. Not just from the physical move, though. It’s been a several-months-long journey of deciding I wanted to move, checking Craigslist every few hours for new apartment listings, setting up appointments to actually see how big small 400 square feet is, falling in love with a new place, paying money, sorting, packing boxes, cleaning, packing more boxes, recruiting friends and family to help, renting a truck, packing a truck, unpacking a truck, cleaning, coming up with creative storage solutions, and (eventually) unpacking boxes.
And none of it just happened. Not one box packed itself, loaded itself into the truck, or unloaded itself at the new place. Not one room cleaned itself. Not one drawer of clothing sorted itself.
My desire to move wasn’t enough; finding and moving into a new apartment took a lot of work.
The Work of Intention
Here’s something else you really should know: 2014 is halfway over. Yes, it’s summer, and we’d rather keep thinking about vacation, but now is actually the perfect time to think about work. Internal work, that is—work that flows out of our desires. What do you want the second half of 2014 to look like? And how can you help bring that desire to fruition?
Remember all your New Year’s resolutions? You had all those good intentions about making this year different by getting eight hours of sleep every night and going to the gym every morning and cutting back on caffeine and spending more quality time with friends and family and using public transportation more often and adopting a pet and reading more books and watching less TV and giving up procrastination and organizing your kitchen cupboards and planting a garden and using sunblock and learning to caulk.
But for those of us who are human—whose memory is a little more short-term, and whose ambitions are a little more realistic—why not make a mid-year resolution? One change you’d like to see in the next six months. One sin you want to turn away from with the Holy Spirit’s and your community’s help. One fruit of the Spirit you want to ask God to develop in you. One skill you’d like to learn. Name your desire.
And then create a plan. Because your desire—like my move—will not go anywhere without some intention and work. The Holy Spirit (thankfully!) empowers us and facilitates growth in us, but we have a part to play too—a little work to do, if you will—that needs to be acknowledged.
Take a Look
Here’s one plan you might use to grow in whatever way you named.
1. Look back. What’s happened in the past six months in the world? In your city? In you? How did you see God at work? What situations did you wrestle with him over? What prayers did he answer? What longings are still unfulfilled? What pain did you experience? What healing did his Spirit bring? Intentionally set aside time to recall significant moments of the first half of the year, and then talk to God about them. Praise him for the ways he worked. Tell him your hurts. Ask for his healing and perspective.
This can be hard work—both the setting aside the time and the remembering itself. But when we create space to remember, like God instructed the Israelites to do over and over again, we come to know ourselves and God better, and are more able to trust his sovereignty and care for us.
2. Look ahead. What challenges are you facing in the next six months? What are you excited about? What are you fearful about? What feels overwhelming? What stands in the way of your desired change happening? Talk to God about each of those things, telling him how you’re feeling and asking for his peace and strength to face whatever comes with grace and courage.
3. Look within and without. What resources do you have? What resources do you need to help you grow in the area of desire that you named? Do you need to take a class or read a book? Is there a spiritual discipline you want to try? Is there someone who could mentor you in the area you want to grow in? Summer is a great time to establish and explore rhythms and options that work for you.
4. Look at your calendar. Set appointments now for the next six months to do whatever you need to do to grow in the ways that you want. Schedule in retreats or daily prayer time. Figure out which small group to join. Look up class options. Browse books in Amazon or the library (one of my favorite kinds of “work”!). Set a meeting to talk to your supervisor about the ideas you have for personal growth in your skill set. Ask a friend who’ll be living on your dorm floor to be your accountability partner, and decide how often you’ll meet. Take whatever action you can now so that when life gets even busier, your plan will already be in place.
Intention and Attention
Growth takes intention. And it takes attention. Don’t let the next six months fly by without taking time to reflect, to look ahead, and to work at your own growth. The opportunity we have to grow spiritually is a gift—a gift born out of the incredibly hard work Jesus did. Let’s honor him today—and for the next six months—in intentional ways.