Consequently, I've fallen head over heels in love with goal setting. Obviously, goals with a date. I am prayerful about my goal setting. It's not that I hear a reverberating voice from God telling me which goals to set. But I'm prayerful as I set goals. And so far, I've never had God tell me not to set a goal. All of the goals I set have to do with self-improvement, family unity and growth, and ministry. I've accomplished some things in my life that I'm very thankful to have been a part of due to my goal setting.
I've written and published an illustrated children's book. I've recorded many albums. I've written many songs. I've directed many church events that have greatly impacted people's lives. All of this because of my goal setting habit.
But I've experienced, for the second time, God asking me to sacrifice a goal. These have been excruciatingly difficult. While I won't divulge my current sacrifice offering, I will tell you that the first He asked for was "my" Hadassah girls' conference. Hadassah was my pride and joy. I loved it so much. I fought Him over it. And after I killed the goals (past and present) on the altar of surrender I mourned their loss, just as one mourns the death of a loved one. I've struggled more with bitterness over the sacrifice of a goal than I ever have over the betrayal and rejection of a friend.
Those of us who are goal-setters understand the attachment to a goal that is formed. To accomplish a goal it is investigated and studied. The goal turns out to be full of unexpected mystery and intrigue. The goal must be woo'd like a lover. It is hoped for, prayed over, and chased. Sleep is lost in the pursuit. Tears are shed. Joy is felt. A relationship is formed with a goal.
If the deadline draws near and the marriage of plan to accomplishment is not made, the idea isn't chucked. We simply set a new date and keep going. You no more give up on a goal than you'd give up on a prodigal child, or a lifelong friendship.
You just don't.
That God would ask me to sacrifice a goal was earth shattering and life halting.
I admit that each of the goals God has asked for I've carried to the altar with a picture of Abraham and Issac in the back of my mind. I've laid my goals on the altar fully expecting a ram's bleat from the thicket to halt the proceedings. And when the angel of the Lord didn't stop my hand from plunging the dagger of death, I felt I had died as well.
The deaths of these goals altered huge chunks of my day. Hours that used to be spent on reaching these goals were suddenly vast spaces of empty time. The people I used to communicate with to reach the goals were suddenly no more in my text-feed. The thoughts that used to consume my downtime were suddenly useless thoughts. Indeed, they became painful thoughts. I had created a self-identity from the processes of these goals, and that identity was as deceased as the goals.
This "death of self" is the point and the win, actually. For I can't walk in newness of life if I don't die to self. New birth is essential to bigger and better things. Our initial salvation new-birth experience isn't the only time death-to-birth is required. In fact, we're suppose to take up our cross daily. Paul said and exemplified, "I die daily." We die so we can be reborn!
I understand that just because we're pursuing goals doesn't mean we're not dying daily. In fact, in order to pursue goals we deny our flesh and kill our affections and lusts every day. But God sees when we've grown accustomed to the rigors of a certain discipline, and we are no longer affectively sacrificing to the death of self. We sometimes become accustomed to the hardships, and can not only survive, but build a tolerance. That does us no good.
Anyway, I don't want self-identity.
I want to be crucified so that Christ is alive in me. (Galatians 2:20)
I want a Christ-identity.
When people try to put their finger on what is different about me from the public at large, I want them to recognize Christ, not me. (Acts 4:13)
My goals have put me in positions to minister to a lot of people in one setting. I know God is not opposed to my goal setting. But I have learned that He may ask that I lay the prize, pick-of-the-litter goal on an altar of sacrifice and let it go.
I hope and pray I have the faith and trust to do so every time.