Goals! Everyone talks about them. We all need them. But I’m convinced a mere goal is never enough. We need to move beyond simply setting a goal to having a vision of what life will be like once we have attained that goal. If all we have is a goal, then it seems like the end result is just achieving a goal for achieving a goal’s sake, we won’t stick with it. At least, I never do. So, whether we are talking about our physical, mental, financial, or even spiritual lives, we need to move beyond goals and envision what life will be like having achieved that goal.
Alright, so after Trina’s and Ethan’s wonderful honesty last week, I have redoubled my efforts to be healthy. Hopefully, that will have the side benefit of being thin. I’m still not sure about the juice fast. I’m considering doing a two-week fast for a body and taste bud reset and then progressing with a healthy, mostly fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans diet (yes, I will still eat some meat). But this is tough. It is a retraining of my habits. Those ruts are laid down pretty deep in my brain, my psyche, my emotions, my life. I have a goal. I want to be between 175 and 185 pounds. That’s a 65 to 75 pound loss. That gets me close to my college weight and health. There’s my goal. But I’ve had that goal before and just setting the goal didn’t work.
So, this week I took another step that I hope will make a long-term difference. I decided to envision what life would be like if I was back there. I have a picture from my college days. It’s actually kind of embarrassing. I have a flop haircut and one of those braided belts that we used to wrap around by the buckle and then let hang down the front of your pants. I remember watching that part get shorter and shorter until I couldn’t wear the belt at all. Sad. Very sad. Anyway, the other day, I pulled that picture out of its collage frame and made several copies. I taped one to the refrigerator door, one to my bathroom window, one in my gym locker, one in my car. This is more than just a reminder of what I looked like. It is a vision of what life was like then. I was a rower at Wichita State University. I played volleyball hard every day in the dorm sand court. My knees didn’t hurt when I did that. My back didn’t hurt. I was flexible, agile, faster, stronger, healthier. I had more energy. I don’t just want to get back to the weight; I want to get closer to that feeling. Having this vision makes mealtime choices easier. Having this vision makes exercise choices easier. Still a struggle sometimes, but easier.
Then I began to think. What is the vision I have for my spiritual life? Certainly, I have a goal, be like Jesus. But what’s my vision? What will that look like in my life. What picture can I hang in my Bible, my prayer chair, my study to help me make the tough choices? I’ve thought about that for a couple of days and waffled back and forth, but it hit me this morning. I know the exact picture.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
For too long I’ve looked at these two verses as directions about how to act and what to work on. No doubt there are other passages that talk about the work we do in these areas. But that is not what these two verses are saying. These two verses are talking about the fruit of the Spirit. They are talking about what grows when I sow to the Spirit instead of the flesh. These two verses are a promise, a nine-fold promise. God is saying this is the picture of my life when I surrender my life to Him, walk by faith instead of by sight, carry my cross, and live for Him instead of myself.
Here’s what it produces for me. I become more loving. I have more serenity. I will increase my tenacity and perseverance. Kindness will overflow in my life. The goodness I’ve fallen so far short of in the past will start to be natural. Loyalty and faithfulness will abound. Meekness, submission, gentleness will mark my interactions with God and others. And all those areas that need some discipline will start to take shape. That’s what being more like Jesus looks like. That’s the picture, the vision I need to have before my mind’s eye all the time.
Those nine promises make shutting off the TV to spend some time in the Bible a little easier. Those nine promises make turning off the iPod in order to have some time in silent meditation and prayer easier. Those none promises make spending time with brethren easier. Those nine promises make mortifying the flesh instead of reveling in it easier.
Don’t just have a goal, have a vision.