By Jodie Niznik
There’s still time.
Even though you probably ditched your resolution somewhere around January 19, which is where you’ll find mine, we can still make 2023 an intentional year.
Resolutions are challenging because they’re often wishful thinking without an actionable plan. Lose weight. Ditch the carbs. Read the entire Bible.
We dig in and gut it out for a few weeks. But then we go to that birthday party. Or hit Leviticus in the reading plan. And the resolution loses its luster just as justification kicks in.
But before we throw all caution to the wind to consume three slices of cake while letting our Bibles gather dust, perhaps we should take a different approach — a kinder and gentler one.
The first step is to discover the true intention of your original resolutions. If you diligently dig, you’ll find they’re all pointing to the same thing: our deep desire to live a life that matters, a life of significance, and a life that positively impacts the people and world around us. Perhaps I’m wrong. I know our desires are nuanced. But I also know that even if your resolutions were purely selfish, you don’t desire your life to be.
I know this because our Creator instilled within us a deep desire to do good before we were born. Ephesians 2:10 in the NLT says it this way: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
How do we know what these good things are?
God can make his will known to us by speaking in an audible voice or writing on a wall. Trust me; I have asked him to. But this isn’t how God usually chooses to speak to us today. He seems to move within the regular rhythms of our life. Most devoted followers of God, much wiser than me, will tell you this.
Discerning God’s movement in our lives, then, becomes an exercise in noticing. And in our distraction-prone world, noticing is easier said than done. One of the tools I’ve found helpful is something Christians have been using for centuries called an examen. It’s a simple set of questions asked at the same time each day to help us slow down, reflect, and intentionally notice patterns in our lives. It’s within these patterns that we can start to discern the nudges of God instead of blazing right past them.
I’ve found the examen helpful when facing big decisions, feeling stuck, or needing to ensure I’m still on the right track.
If you search examen online, you will find lots of different questions you can use. They all fall into a few categories intended to help us pay attention to what feels life-giving and life-draining.
Before we go any further, I need to give a disclaimer. Just because something makes it on the life-draining list doesn’t mean you get to skip it altogether. Bills still need to be paid, laundry still needs to be done, and meals still need to be made — but perhaps there are ways to do these things differently. The truth is, we will always have parts of our day that don’t feel life-giving. That’s part of being human. The question becomes, does most of your energy go toward these life-draining tasks? If so, that’s something to pay attention to and work toward changing.
Here’s the list of questions I use:
- What energized me in the last twenty-four hours?
- Where did I feel the least energy? What were the circumstances of that situation?
- What has my physical body been telling me?
- What was I most grateful for over the last twenty-four hours?
- Did I sense God leading me in the last twenty-four hours? If so, did I cooperate or resist?
I recommend you write out the questions (or save this article) and place them where you will see them daily. I choose my bedside table for evening reflection or my office for morning reflection. Then, each day take 5 minutes to review and write down what you are noticing. Patterns will likely emerge as consistent feelings, nudges, or desires. Prayerfully pay attention to these. Ask God to help you know what to do next. And finally, when it’s time, make the change or take the next step.
Whether you’re facing a monumental life change or wondering what your next small step should be, give the examen a try. 2023 can still be a year full of meaning and intention, even without all those resolutions.