How did you do with your goals in January? Are you still sticking with your resolutions? Here’s an honest look at how my first month went:
January’s Focus was KINDNESS
My overarching goal for January was to become a kinder person [to cherish and be devoted to others with tender, brotherly affection and fondness] by doing at least one act of kindness every day throughout the month. I used a calendar to keep track of my daily progress.
- Faith- (I) Study Biblical kindness, (II) Memorize and meditate upon 3 verses about kindness per week, (III) Pray every day that God would make me a kind person and give me opportunities to show kindness.
(I) I was able to start an in-depth study of the book of Ruth this past month. I haven’t gotten through the whole book, yet, but I’ve learned much through Ruth and Boaz’s examples of kindness.
For example, Ruth was very in tune to her mother-in-law’s needs rather than her own. It would have been far easier and convenient for her to go home to her family in Moab like Naomi had insisted. Yet, Ruth decided to follow Naomi to a foreign land (100 miles from her home). As I meditated upon this action in particular, I realized just how radical her decision was. Ruth moved a whole week’s-worth of traveling away from all her loved ones. There was no way to communicate long-distance back then: no skype, no phones, no email, no snail mail… And she couldn’t go home to visit for the holidays because it’d take a week to get there and a week to get back. There were no cars or airplanes. Her decision was HUGE. On top of all that, she was going to live among the Israelites- a people group who didn’t really like Moabites.
In spite all of this, “Ruth clung” to her mother-in-law. She saw that Naomi’s needs were great (a widow in those days was essentially equal to a homeless individual in our day, yet with even more stigma), and she promised to care for her until the day she died. Such a commitment was extremely significant for a childless widow in that time period. I found myself praying often that God would make me more like Ruth.
(II) I successfully memorized twelve verses about kindness throughout the month of January. I plan to continue to recite these every so often to keep them fresh in my mind.
(III) Praying for kindness was probably my biggest priority. I definitely saw my short-comings week after week and became more convinced than ever that one cannot “try hard” to be kind and succeed. Kindness is a fruit that comes from the Holy Spirit, so without constant prayer and dependence upon the Spirit, my efforts were futile.
2. Marriage– (I) Seek out opportunities to serve John, (II) Withhold all unkind words.
(I) I think I had the most fun (and success) with this goal. Some of the things I did for John this month required little effort, but other things (like shoveling the driveway for the third time in one week, not getting upset when he ditched me to spend time with other people, or giving him my last piece of stevia-sweetened chocolate) were difficult for me.
One of the books I read this past month was Shaunti Feldhahn’s The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages. She talked about how highly happy couples serve one another joyfully. There was one quote that especially caught my attention:
[Marriage is]… the privilege of serving [my spouse] for the rest of [his] life, not for getting my needs met for the rest of my life.
Did you catch that? It’s a privilege to serve my spouse. When I began thinking about it in this light, serving John every day became my joy. I looked forward to making his lunch every day and laying out his clothes on the bed for him to change into after he showered. I no longer hesitated when he mentioned he needed or wanted something, I got up and got it for him. It became like a game for me: how many times and ways can I serve John today? And though there were times when selfish thoughts would creep into my mind, I’d push them away and remind myself that being married to John gives me the privilege of serving him.
(II) I didn’t really think withholding unkind words would be that difficult, but I did catch myself making a few snide remarks every now and then. The first week of January I slipped up about 50% of the time! I also found that it wasn’t necessarily the words I spoke, but the tone in which I spoke them that was unkind. Other days I was convicted of unkind thoughts I was harboring toward him. God revealed to me that kindness begins with one’s thoughts.
3. Health- (I) Show kindness to my body by getting at least 8 hours of sleep per night and (II) reading 30 minutes a day.
(I) There were only a couple nights I was not able to get 8 hours of sleep. Lately I’ve been getting between 9 and 10 hours a night!
(II) There were only four days in the past month that I was unable to read for 30 minutes. As a result, I was able to read a total of 8 books in January!
4. Homemaking- (I) Practice hospitality by inviting somebody over once a week, (II) Make meals for needy families.
(I) Every week but one in the past month we opened up our home to somebody. For most people this isn’t a big deal, but for me it’s pretty near monumental. If there’s one thing I struggle with when it comes to homemaking, it’s hospitality. It stresses me out. But both John and I want to improve in this area, so we did pretty well this month.
(II) I never did make a meal for anybody in January, but I bought groceries for my sister after the arrival of her baby, instead.
5. Interactions– (I) Seek out opportunities to bless others like making encouraging cards for the needy, talking to somebody who seems lonely, and babysitting for free.
(I) There were only two days in which I did not bless somebody in some way. Some days it was as simple as letting a car merge in front of me while driving home, smiling at a stranger while walking down the street, or genuinely complimenting somebody. Other days I wrote encouraging notes, loaded a friend’s dishwasher for her, sat and talked with somebody who was lonely, or shoveled people’s driveways for them. I definitely found that speaking kind words was far more difficult for me than writing them or just showing kindness through my actions.
God also taught me some important lessons about kindness this past month. As I wrote in my journal after the third week, “If I was under some illusion that this ‘project’ would make me feel better about myself… it’s been burst.” To be completely honest, more often than not, I found myself thinking after the fact, “I just missed an opportunity to show kindness to that person.” There were countless times I could have served, encouraged, or helped somebody but failed to do so.
One of the Sunday School teachers was teaching the children at my church a song for the second week in a row and she asked, “Have you been kind this past week, or have you just been thinking about being kind?” I definitely felt like the Lord was speaking directly to me. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what kindness means, ways to show kindness, and even studied Biblical kindness, but I don’t feel I put it into action all that much this past month.
At the beginning of the month I was attempting to be holy through my kind deeds. But I realized, as one popular praise song says, “Holiness is Christ in me.” Despite my best efforts to be intentional about showing kindness, they fell far short. And even the times when I did obey His promptings, there were no grounds for patting myself on the back. Many times I had to talk myself into doing an act of kindness in the first place.
Week after week I reflected on how utterly dependent I am upon Christ to help me be kind. Being challenged to be kind every day, all day this past month has revealed to me just how depraved I really am. It’s only when I am abiding in Christ and being led by His Spirit (prayerfully being mindful of ways I can bless others), that I am able to show true kindness. A quote from C.S. Lewis came to my attention in a timely manner this month:
One mustn’t make the Christian life into a punctilious system of law… Nothing gives one a more spuriously good conscience than keeping rules, even if there has been a total absence of all real charity and faith.
I had to continually remind myself that kindness is a fruit of the Spirit that grows as one’s relationship with Christ grows. My focus needed to shift from showing kindness in order to check it off my to-do list or feel good about myself to showing kindness for the sake of blessing others and glorifying God. So with the close of January, my prayer continues to be, “Lord, help me be mindful to be a blessing” (Galatians 6:10, AMP).