I have a board on my Pinterest account titled "inspire // good words."
With quotes from theologians and Scripture sprinkled through, it is primarily filled with those encouraging and, yes, inspiring statements like "You're always one decision away from a totally different life" and "If you know you can do better...then do better."
We love those sentiments, don't we? Especially around this time of year, when everything seems fresh and new and you have 365 days of possibility staring you right in the face. We make goals and resolutions and plans. We say this will be the year we finally do X, Y, or Z -- lose the weight, organize the house, find the guy, the list goes on and on.
While I don't believe there's anything particularly special about January 1, I am not immune to the sense of possibility that permeates this time of year. I love the idea of a fresh start and a new beginning just as much as the next person. Perhaps even more so than most. I color coordinate my new planner and I've filled out intentional goal setting workbooks for three years running. I've even told myself those exact words — "This will be the year I finally..." — and some of those things have happened, while others haven't.
It's good to have hopes and dreams. It's good to set goals and to purpose in our hearts to live in a way that is more intentional than we have lived in the past. I believe more often than not, we let life happen to us. We let our circumstances and completely external forces dictate the way we live our lives and I don't believe that's how we were created to live.
In the same way that losing weight or a thriving marriage don't just happen to us, neither does an intentional life. They are all things that must be chosen, fought for, pursued.
But in our pursuit of our "best life" — the one where your house, your job, your body, your wardrobe, your significant other, and every other aspect of your life looks worthy of an Instagram feed — it's easy to forget that the Lord has plans for you this year, too. And it's entirely possible that those plans look exceedingly different than yours.
Take a step back and think for a minute. How many of your goals and resolutions for 2017 have to do with what you want your life to look like? By comparison, how many of them focus on cultivating your faith and subsequently the life the Lord wants you to have?
Far more often than we'd probably like to admit, our pursuit of that Pinterest perfect life becomes more fueled by those encouraging and inspiring statements rather than Scripture, and when that happens, it's easy to believe the lie that this life is about us.
It's easy to buy into the belief that if we have the perfectly curated life, suddenly all our problems and sin issues will disappear. We think, "If this happens, I will finally be content," or "If this happens, I will no longer lose my temper."
But that is a lie. Even when life looks perfect and put together from the outside, our hearts are still a hot mess of struggle between the saint and the sin nature. A perfect house or body or family will not make you or me perfectly patient, kind, loving, and gentle.
I have a pretty solid picture in my head of what I want my life to look like. I can see it all, down to the light-filled, gorgeously curated home, handsome husband, and adorable children.
As a recovering people-pleaser and perfectionist, it's easy for me to zone in on the elements of my "best life" that are visible. The ones that can be captured in a square image, cropped and edited just so to give the impression of having everything all together all the time. And it's easy to believe that if I attain that kind of visually curated life that everything else will have fallen into place as well.
It is entirely possible that, on some level, that will be the case. If I ever attain the Pinterest dream home and career and husband, I could very well be a more patient, kind, loving, and gentle person than I am right now. But I will never get there by focusing on the visual aspects of my life, the ones perceivable to everyone else.
The trouble with being a recovering perfectionist people-pleaser is that I'm great at pretending. I spent years acting like I had everything all together while feeling like I was falling apart inside. And with the rise of social media and that desire to be loved and admired by everybody, the people-pleasing part of me rears its ugly head and tries to convince me that if I can just perfectly curate my home, my wardrobe, my body, my job, and my relationships then life will be great.
In short, if I can attain my "best life" through discipline and my own effort, then I will finally be content and happy.
It takes effort at times to remind myself just how wrong that idea is, what a complete and utter lie it is.
Yes, it takes effort to curate a home and wardrobe and other aspects of a life. A visually stunning life does take discipline. But I wonder if part of our tendency to focus on the curation of the outward aspects of our life is due not only to our desire to look like we have it all together, but because we recognize that the work required to have a stunning heart requires far more effort than curating a home will ever take. After all, you can't just hire an interior designer to redecorate your heart.
The Lord has done a lot of work in my heart over the last few years.
There have been moments when I've been frustrated and felt stagnant, like no matter what I do or how hard I try, the growth just isn't happening. And then I find myself in situations that, three years ago, would've caused a completely different response in me. Or on the phone with my bestie, speaking words I finally, truly believe to have her respond, "Wow. I've never heard you talk about that so calmly before."
Sanctification is a messy business. It's completely contrary to our picture of a beautiful, perfectly organized life. It involves a lot of tears and writing things down and scribbling them out and sometimes yelling at the ceiling because you just can't figure out where the heck Jesus is going with all of this. It's two steps forward and one step back and you thought you were going in one direction and suddenly doors are being slammed in your face. It's seeing only one step ahead of you and wishing more than anything that Jesus would just light up the whole dang path so you can know how it's all gonna end. It's being angry and frustrated because it would be so much easier if you could just skip over all the work and jump right to that mythical, future self you see in your head.
It's all of those things working and churning and spinning together until one day you stop and you take a step back and you see not how far you've come, but how far He's brought you.
The truth is, my "best life" isn't about me.
My best life is not one where I have the desired number of Instagram followers and likes, where I have my dream home and my dream job and my dream body and my dream husband. It isn't a life that is more defined by its visual aspects than the heart aspects. It isn't an outward life I want to show off to everyone and an inward life I want to keep hidden from view.
My best life is the one where Christ reigns supreme — where each day I am more devoted to Him, loving Him better, knowing Him more deeply. It's a life where I am growing more righteous, holy, and gracious with each passing day. It's a life where I shine the light of Christ to everyone I meet, whether my outfit is worthy of a fashion blog or not.
It may be that this year is the one where that thing you've been dreaming of finally comes to fruition. Sanctification and a put together life are not mutually exclusive.
You may end 2017 with your life looking more "Instagram-worthy" than it did at the start. But the real success, the real "best life" comes when you finish 2017 looking more like Christ than you ever have before. The real "best life" is when yours is laid down and His shines through, no matter the weight on the scale, the clothes in your closet, or the mess on the living room floor.
This life, "best" or not, was never meant to be about us. It has always been about Him.