I’ve said it before, but I need to say it again: I think fall is the “new” New Year. This time of year is actually the best time to make resolutions, to start over, to get into new habits. When the weather is warmer, the days are still filled with extra hours of sunlight, and the cold weather can’t give you an excuse for, well, anything.
I’ve been reflecting on that over the last few weeks. In my head, a question keeps popping up: “How do we start anew practically?” I think that’s an important question. Too often we can know the right answer, we can know where we want to go, but we don’t know how to get there.
In those instances, we need more than just a map. We need directions. We need that turn-by-turn navigation to tell us when to exit, when to change course, and when to speed up or slow down.
In that spirit, I want to give you three ways I have found to take this season and start new, healthy life patterns. These are all practical ways to get your mind and life right, as well as refocus you and get you headed in the right direction.
In the biblical book of John, chapter 15, verses 4-5, Jesus commands us to “abide” in him. Maybe you’ve heard that before. So what does that mean practically? It means spending time with him. For many years I was against a rigid “quiet time.” In the last few months, though, I’ve adopted a morning routine of “abiding” with God and it has changed my life.
As I’ve done that, I think I’ve realized why I was always so against a “quiet time.” It’s because my abiding time isn’t quiet at all!
I talk to the Father. To Jesus. To the Holy Spirit. I argue with them at times. I wrestle. I’m loud about it, not always audibly but in my mind. I confess my thoughts, my struggles and my doubts. And what I’ve found is that Jesus has met me there, in those not-so-quiet quiet times.
Friend, I want to encourage you to set aside time each day to be with Jesus. But know this: Your time doesn’t have to look like my time, and it certainly doesn’t have to be quiet. Find what feeds your soul. Maybe that’s listening to music, or going on a walk or journaling. Whatever it is, just be sure to spend time to humble yourself and be with your Heavenly Father.
I know, some of you may be giving me a little side-eye right now.
“Jon, I’ve been lectured my whole life on prayer. And now here you go!”
For many of us – especially those who have been following Jesus for some time – we’ve been beaten over the head with the idea of prayer. And for a lot of us it has taken on a sort of ritualistic, even boring, tone. I get it.
But the essence of prayer is being in communication with the one who created you. The one who knows you better than you know yourself. Don’t you want to be talking to that person? If you met a new friend and they said, “Jon, I know you better than anyone on this earth. Just try me.” And then when you started talking to that person they began revealing things to you – about you – that amazed you, wouldn’t you want to keep talking to that person? Absolutely.
That’s God. And that’s prayer. That’s what the Bible means when it says “pray continuously.” The idea is that we should be in regular contact with the one who knows us best. Some of you have that type of relationship, even as an adult, with your mom or dad. You call them all the time. You run things by them. Sometimes you just chat about nothing because their voice comforts you.
That’s the type of relationship available to us, through prayer, with God. Many of my prayers look like short bursts of conversation throughout the day. Maybe it’s when I’m driving. Maybe it’s when I’m filling up my Yeti with ice and water. Maybe it’s during my abiding time. The point is it looks different at different times. And if you’re “praying continuously” – meaning if you’re in regular conversation with God – it’s going to. Try it.
It may sound odd, but I was never a “journaler.”
“But Jon, you’re a writer!”
I know. But for some reason, writing down my daily, in-the-moment thoughts always….scared me. Yes, scared me. See, because of my anxiety and OCD, my thoughts can be all over the place. And many times those thoughts are filled with fear, if I’m honest. I’d rather present my thoughts as polished prose, like in the format you’re reading now. In that format, I get to edit, I get to delete, I get others to look it over and make sure it’s good.
But journaling is a different story. It's a stream of consciousness. It’s unedited. It’s messy. But you know what? That’s exactly what God wants. See, we can’t be in a close relationship with him if we’re not honest with him. Think about that. Think about your earthly relationships. Think about your best friend. You’re honest with that person and that forms the bedrock of your close relationship. So why do we think we can only present the “good” parts of ourselves to God and still be in a deep relationship with him? Why do we think we can hide the ugly parts, and then expect to draw close to him?
Journaling gets us closer to God by exposing what we’re really thinking. Everything we’re thinking. Yes, it was a little awkward for me at first. But once I got past that, I found a certain beauty in pouring out myself to the one who knit me together, and I have felt closer to him than I ever have before.
I encourage you to journal. Write down what you’re thinking, especially if you begin to follow the abiding I mentioned earlier. I promise, you will grow closer to your creator and be amazed at how he speaks to you. And your life will change.
Find Your Identity
God speaks most profoundly to us when we are operating out of the true identity he has given us. That’s the gist of the book I mentioned earlier this month, “Living Fearless” by Jamie Winship. This idea – and this book – has changed my life. That’s why I’m mentioning it here.
Friend, God has given you a unique identity. Not the identity that your friends or family has given you but the one he has bestowed on you from before you were even born. That identity gives you purpose, it gives you meaning, and it gives you direction. Want to start anew? Find the identity he has given you. How? See the first three steps I mentioned: abiding, praying and journaling.
My identity is “bold, courageous and decisive storyteller.” You know how I found that out? By abiding with God, by talking with him and then by writing it down when it came to me so I didn’t forget it and had it “written in stone,” so to speak. It has given me so much clarity, so much peace and so much joy. I’m operating on a new level, and it’s showing not just in my relationships, but in my work and every nook and cranny of my life. Once you find your true identity, it will do the same. It can’t not.
Friends, I want you to find the joy, peace and comfort I have recently found. I truly believe that if you put into practice what I mentioned above, you will find that. Start it right here, right now, as we turn to a new season. I pray that the physical change of seasons starts a spiritual change of seasons. And that you find new purpose, meaning and clarity in it.