The thought of setting New Year’s Resolutions used to trigger my anxiety. As a perfectionist, I would inevitably attach unrealistic expectations to them so that when I failed, the failure was on an epic scale disproportionate to the original goal.
Thankfully, over time, God has helped me learn how to identify and let go of these unrealistic expectations.
Not perfectly, of course. I still find myself caught up in them more often than I would like to admit. But I’ve made progress to where I can now identify what they are and let go of them more quickly.
One of the ways God has helped me do this is by allowing myself to only take baby steps.
People who teach goal-setting tell us to break down our goals into smaller, more manageable steps to keep us from being overwhelmed by the big picture.
This is even more critical for those of us who deal with anxiety or perfectionism. Not only can the big picture overwhelm me, it can trigger anxiety and depression. When that happens, the goal goes out the window and I’m only focused on survival.
So how do I make any progress?
I Peter 2:2-3
Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
I don’t have to hold myself to the expectation of being a fully-mature, spiritual giant. That’s what my perfectionism wants, because if I’m going to be spiritual, I have to be the most spiritual possible.
But this verse, and so many others, describe how God works in us – through growth.
He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”
If I only look at the end result, the tallest tree in the garden, and expect myself to be that now, then I will be disappointed and disillusioned.
Jesus didn’t say that the Kingdom of Heaven was like a mustard tree – tall and mature. He said the Kingdom of heaven was like the mustard seed – it starts small and grows large.
Zechariah 4:10a (NLT)
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.”
God will show us the end result we should shoot for, because He knows we need that kind of direction. But it’s not my job to jump to the end. It’s my job to start from where I am right now and trust Him to also show me the next right thing to do, the first step.
The path of the righteous is like the morning sun,
shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
Sunrise is gradual. And it moves so slowly that we don’t even notice its movement. We just notice when looking back that time has passed.
I need to give myself the same freedom to start small and progress slowly.
God called me to write. He called me to work in ministry. I can’t do either of those things completely – yet.
His call on my life was the seed. When I accepted His call, I planted that seed. It is my responsibility to put in the work – to spend time in His Word, to make time to write, to make time to learn the craft of writing, and to spend time in the ministry learning what I need to learn.
I can’t make the seed grow. I’m only responsible for doing each next right thing as the Holy Spirit leads to give the seed everything it needs to grow.
I Corinthians 3:6
I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.
I need God to show me the big picture sometimes, because it helps me to know that I do have a purpose and that He does have a plan for my life. I need to know that I will one day be a fully mature vessel that He can use to advance His Kingdom.
But I don’t live my daily life in the big picture. I come to Him each day and ask Him to show me each next right thing to do that day. Because I know that if I do each small step in His Will today, those small steps will eventually lead me to fulfillment of His Will for me in the big picture.
What small step is God showing you today?
Photo credit: quimono