Give Up Your Goal

It’s time. It’s a new year. Name your goals, write your resolutions, craft your dream board. Evaluate what was and then push towards what will be. Choose your word. Let’s make this year count. Carpe diem! My whole adult life I have loved the refresh of a new year. I love the challenge of hoping for what’s possible or, better yet, impossible.

I’ve spent so much of my life encouraging people to reach higher, dream bigger, and do more. I help others set great goals and look for opportunities to grow. Steps to success might look like reading another leadership book, attending a conference, or getting a podcast queue ready so not a moment is wasted. After many years of teaching these good and worthwhile habits as well as instilling them into my own life, I have found they simply come up short. Since I was a little girl, I have been walking with Jesus. But as an adult, I often find myself running ahead of Him chasing after achievements.

A couple years ago, I kicked off the new year with my usual list of goals ready to go. One of them was to read twenty-four leadership or personal development books. Based on my reading history, I thought it was a challenging but attainable goal and I just knew it was going to support my desire to take over the world—my ambition at the time. I started out strong and devoured several books according to plan.

Around that same time, I was co-hosting a leadership retreat with an agenda full of team and faith building activities. For the grand finale we planned one of those crazy fire walks where you walk with bare feet over hot coals. I told myself this event would be for the attendees and I would not need to mentally prepare for such a feat. But as the day progressed I knew in my gut that I was meant to do it too. So when the time came, I lined up right alongside the other crazies. I stepped up for my turn and I felt God ask, “Will you follow me?” It was a call I had heard before when I was fifteen. Though I have tried following Him ever since, this time felt different.

All at once the smoldering fire I was about to walk over seemed tame compared to the fire burning within me. It had been a long time since I’d heard His voice so clearly. I knew right then if I said no, I would risk staying where I had been: exhausted and empty. I was finally desperate enough to chance my plans, my desires by following the path He was lighting up. My well-laid plan needed a shift and my goals needed to be shelved.

With little thinking, I said “Yes!”

That night at the fire walk, I took a step not only onto coals but into a renewed life. I decided to chase after the voice that called me. The decision felt exhilarating yet so risky; I knew deep down that He was asking for so much more than my initial obedience. Before this life-changing encounter, I felt trapped in the striving and hustling, nestled in a culture where busyness is a badge. Ignoring God’s voice had become natural for me—there were simply so many other “important” things that had to be prioritized.

I began waking earlier each morning. I’d sit at our kitchen table and open up my actual, physical Bible. I felt clumsy at first. Following God the way He invited me to would require more than what I usually did—reading someone’s well-written interpretation of Scripture in a devotional or listening to a message at church. I really didn’t feel equipped to handle understanding the Word on my own, but I cracked it open anyway. I started at the beginning and found that, just like anything else, the more I read the less foreign it seemed. I nerded out on commentaries and different translations. And I begged God to speak. I took a journal with me everywhere to jot down what He whispered, how I saw Him working, or how a prayer was answered.

Hebrews 4:12 proved true in my life:

“For the word of God is living and active.”

God’s words came to mind in dark moments. I was able to recall verses I knew I’d read countless times before. They renewed my mind in a way no other book or podcast or wise council ever could. The goals I was obsessed with and the ambition I was leveraging to chase after them paled with just a peek at the power of God. He felt current and not past. I found experiencing God in this way to be personal.

Jeremiah 29:13 says when you seek God with all your heart, you will find Him. I not only found Him when I searched; I also found a better understanding of who I am. I learned to find my identity in my position as a daughter of God rather than in the goals I do (or don’t) accomplish. And the twenty-four books didn’t get read. I started trading competition and hustle for quiet and contemplation—well, as close to quiet as you can get when you’re raising four boys! And I found His delight in me was still there regardless of accomplished goals.

In Hebrews, we’re reminded

“without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Heb. 11:6).

The reward of a close walk with God cannot even compare to the trophies, accolades, or positions we could desire.

So, daughter of God, here’s your New Year’s wake-up call: Let’s stop striving and hustling. Let’s stop seeing time with God as optional, secondary, or not productive enough. Let’s sit. Let’s listen. Let’s open our Bibles and our hearts.

God transformed me the year I said yes to Him. I thought maybe it’d be like the movie Yes Day and that each day would bring something wildly unexpected. While my life hasn’t necessarily been one adventure after another, He has taken me on a journey I never could have imagined. I had to let go of some plans. While it’s been painful and hard, it’s also been healing and eye-opening, and I wouldn’t trade it. I had no idea what was to come—now looking back at all the figurative coals I’ve walked over the last couple of years, I’m not sure how I would have survived if His face wasn’t taking up the center of my view. He knew I’d need Him near.

He invited me closer, and this time I said yes. I’m sad for all the times I missed His invitation but I’m here now. And I’m writing this today because you probably need the reminder I needed. We get a choice every day to seek Him or to let competing voices distract us from Him—voices that tell us we aren’t measuring up, we need to try harder, or we need to achieve more. I want to choose Him over and over again this year and in the years to come.

I would encourage you to set goals but have the courage to let them go if the Lord leads you in a different direction. Don’t try satisfying God’s purposes for your life with your ambitions. He’s got bigger plans for you. Prioritize your time with God. I recommend dusting off your real-life Bible. Carry it with you and let people think what they like. But carry it, not out of obligation or show, but out of curiosity and a desire for relationship. And if you’re not feeling that, pray and ask for a renewed passion.

In this new year, if I could impress only one thing on you and it compelled you to action it would be this: get in the Word of God. When you seek the Lord, He has promised you will find Him.

Maribeth is a creative, get-outta-the-box instigator with over twenty years experience leading and encouraging people professionally. You could call her a business exec, speaker, blogger, worship leader, podcaster, entrepreneur, or mentor, but whatever you do, don’t call her late for Taco Tuesday. MB loves lighting a fire under people who want more for their lives. She believes if you invest in building incredible people, you can grow an incredible organization.

In her free time, you can find her cooking authentic Mexican food with her husband, Chris, at their home in Tennessee and trying to keep their four boys from tracking mud through the house.

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2 Responses

  1. Wow Maribeth! It’s 3am and I am lying here awake, pondering my life’s path. This is just what I needed! For a long time now I have been chasing what I thought God wanted me to do. But in reality, it’s what I wanted to do. What you wrote here really touched my mind, heart and soul…..
    “Don’t try satisfying God’s purposes for your life with your ambitions. He’s got bigger plans for you. Prioritize your time with God. I recommend dusting off your real-life Bible. Carry it with you and let people think what they like. But carry it, not out of obligation or show, but out of curiosity and a desire for relationship.”
    In reality if we follow God’s word, his lead in our lives and we set our sights on him, the sky’s the limit. Our God is faithful and true.
    It may not mean making lots if money, it may mean the most important thing, especially in this day and time, leading people to Christ and helping them have a deeper relationship with him than any of use could ever imagine.
    Thank you for pouring God’s love for us into our lives, and for not being afraid to speak openly about it.
    You are an amazing woman of God!

  2. This is timely. I did choose a word for 2023 as I’ve done in past years. I chose “small things” because I felt a pull to return to less grandiose ideas and simply to commit to taking small steps as they appear. It may seem small to return to Bible reading more than the input of so many other voices. But, I understand. Almost as if God is helping me to simplify and listen to other teachers, encouragers and coaches; but, to listen to Him first and most. I copied a few of your sentences and saved in my Notes. Thank you for this post.

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