In the days leading up to the new year, it’s common practice to reflect and make plans for the year to come. For some, this might be a structured, hours-long process resulting in a personal strategic plan of sorts. For others, it might take the form of writing down or mentally noting New Year’s resolutions. Whatever the process, most of us spend some time thinking about the ways we hope to improve in the New Year. This year, however, the process has looked very different for me.
This fall, in Women’s Bible Study, we studied Proverbs 31. We looked at what God’s Word has to say about speech, diligence, holiness, humility, generosity, and more. In Proverbs 31, we see the account of a God-fearing woman managing all her affairs in perfect wisdom – she is wisdom personified. The entire book of Proverbs urges us to learn to live “God’s way in God’s world” (see Proverbs 1:20-33). Foundational to heeding this call is the fear of the Lord, for it is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7, 9:10). The fear of the Lord” occurs 20 times in the book of Proverbs! As I’ve reflected on what I’ve learned and all of the ways that I’d like to grow and change in this coming year, I’ve realized that growing in the fear of the Lord is the best place to start.
When I consider what a 2022 life plan would look like for me, the changes I’d like to see and the goals I’d like to accomplish are seemingly great, but upon closer look I see that my motivation is, at least in part, idolatrous. The truth is that the greatest of our aspirations can be warped by our idolatry-prone hearts.
In Ten Words to Live By, Jen Wilkin writes: “Like Israel, we affirm that there are no other gods verbally and intellectually, but not practically. Practically, we live as polytheists. Our idolatry is a “both-and” arrangement: I need God and I need a spouse. I need God and I need a smaller waist size. I need God and I need good health. I need God and I need a well-padded bank account.”
The problem with some approaches to life planning and goal setting is that spirituality is simply one category among many. My relationship with the Lord is one area that I, as a Christian, should evaluate, right along with my health, key relationships, career, finances, etc. Although there are practical benefits to this, it does have the potential to normalize idolatry.
Perhaps, one could safeguard against this pitfall by prayerfully reflecting on the issue of idolatry throughout the planning/goalsetting process. By asking the Holy Spirit to shed light on ways that the changes and accomplishments hoped for might point to idols of the heart, this process could lead to repentance and transformation of the heart. However, in an act of faith, I will be starting 2022 with only one official goal: to grow in the fear of the Lord.
In Matthew 6:24 Jesus says: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” Even a quick scan of my 2021 reveals multiple false masters competing for my allegiance, so what better way to spend 2022 than by concentrating on knowing my True Master and allowing Him to transform me from the inside out?
However detailed (or not!) your personal development plan for 2022, I hope you’ll join me in committing to growing in the fear the Lord!
Priscilla Mendoza and her husband, Washington, have been members of GRC since 2018. She serves on our Women’s Ministry team and leads our Tuesday morning Bible study.