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Jan6FriGod's love doesn't depend on our success in setting and keeping goals. January 6, 2023 By Captain Laura Van Schaik
- Filed Under:
- Opinion & Critical Thought
I’ve always been driven and goal oriented, so after being introduced to the Enneagram, a system of personality typing, it came as little surprise to discover that I am a Type Three, also known as “The Achiever.” The Enneagram Institute describes Threes— ahem, me—as “self-assured, attractive and charming. Ambitious, competent, and energetic, [Threes] can also be status-conscious and highly driven for advancement.” Note: goal oriented.
Which makes New Year’s an interesting time for me.
Every January, as the calendar switches from one year to another, I— along with the rest of the world—face an onslaught of advertisements, blog posts and Instagram reels convincing me to do something that comes naturally: set goals! What could be better than external encouragement to discipline myself toward advancement and achievement, right?
But although setting goals can be positive and healthy when done well, far too often it can also lead to a false sense of control in a chaotic world. Goals can become an unrealistic plumb line of worth, dignity and love when they become the primary way in which we measure success and value.
Take, for example, the common goal of losing weight and increasing physical fitness. While this is something worth striving toward, what happens if, shortly after setting such a goal, you experience a health crisis? Or perhaps you’ve set a goal to finish an academic program, another worthy objective, only to lose your job, or have your children pivot back to online learning, or any number of realities that could jeopardize your studies?
There will always be circumstances outside of our control that may affect our ability to stick with a goal, no matter how well intentioned or planned out it is. And if, when we fail at attaining our goal, our sense of worth deteriorates—well, that’s a slippery slope to be on.
Because here’s the truth: there is no resolution that, if kept, will make us more worthy of love and respect. And there is no resolution that, if kept, will make life any less uncertain or allow us to hold firm to that which is beyond our control.
God loves us 100 percent before we do even one percent. We are God’s beloved, regardless of the success of our New Year’s resolutions.
God modelled this beautifully at Jesus’ baptism. When Jesus met with John the Baptist along the shores of the Jordan River, he had not yet started his earthly ministry. He had not performed a single miracle, had not called a single disciple, had not preached a single sermon—and yet, the Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove, and a voice from heaven spoke truth: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11).
The original word for “pleased” used in this verse has no tense—perhaps a challenging concept for those of us who understand reality in either the past, present or future. For a term like “pleased” to be without tense means, rather poignantly, that God’s pleasure with Jesus has no beginning or end, no starting line or expiration date—it merely is.
And this is the same with us. God is pleased with us, too, from the moment we are formed in the womb, just like my love for my own children is not dependent upon, well, anything really. I loved them the first moment I held them in my arms, and I still love them even when they are defiant or grumpy or whether they attain their goals or not.
If I love my children that way, how much greater does God, the good parent, love us, his creation—his children! His love is not dependent upon good behaviour or acts of service or goals met. God just loves us because we are, and that’s enough.
So, this new year, as we box up Christmas decorations and pull out our stretchy pants and, yes, perhaps even set some New Year’s resolutions, let’s remember that we do not need to perform to achieve God’s favour. Our ability to improve our skill set or shrink our waistline has no bearing on our inherent dignity and worth as one made in the image of God.
Captain Laura Van Schaick is the corps officer at Barrhaven Church in Ottawa and the divisional secretary for women’s ministries in the Ontario Division.