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What does your soul need to thrive in 2024?

I wrote last night about what my amaryllis, now in its second year of vibrant blooms, is teaching me: Ongoing fruitful flourishing is only possible when I respect the rhythm built into the plant, giving it needed periods of rest and replenishment. And it is possible then.

It’s not a new concept to me. I wrote a whole book sharing my story of learning to risk rest. But, as you might have figured out by now, most authors write books not because a particular topic comes easily to them, but because it doesn’t, and they have to—and choose to—dive deep as a way to both keep growing themselves and bless others in the process.

When the calendar turns

Each time the calendar turns from one year to the next, I like to take some time in stillness to look back with God over the past year and ponder and pray over the year to come. I like to reflect on what I’ve learned, let go of what I need to, and celebrate the gifts of the past year. And then to turn my face forward and, reflecting again on what I know of how I’m made and what I’m called to and the specifics of this particular season, write out something that helps me enter the new year with intention. It might be a word for the year, a handful of key goals and practices, or a little more progress on my in-process Rule of Life.  

In the past, I’ve done this mostly between Christmas and New Year’s. I tried this year too. But this year, after a busy book launch season, I found I needed to lie in late, have meals with friends, and read a novel or three. I needed space to be human and finite before I could settle in and listen deeply enough to discern what God is calling me to for this new year.

Honestly? At first I struggled with that. I wanted to keep my chosen rhythm according to my timing. I wanted God to guide on my terms. (Ouch.)

Slowly I realized that God, through my soul and body, was answering my prayer for guidance. He was showing me my next right step—to rest, letting myself be human and limited. He was also, in his way, answering my prayer for a focus for this year and, at the same, granting my far deeper desire to be drawn ever closer to him.

A word for the year

I don’t (yet) have a word for the whole year. Instead, I have an in-process list of personal core values, some of which I’ve come to recognize more acutely over these recent months. These are not things I live perfectly—or, sometimes, very well at all. They’re traits and practices that really matter to me, that I want to keep praying for and working to cultivate—things like humility, kindness, and love.

This year, instead of spending a whole year with a single word, I’m feeling drawn to spend a month at a time with whichever core value God seems to be drawing my attention to, praying for it, doing what I can to practice it, and noticing whatever God wants to show me about that value and how it both grows from, and leads back to, his life in me. (At least, that’s how it seems at this point. I’ll be intrigued to see how this unfolds and whether a particular word ends up being repeated month after month!)

In my experience, God often uses our human limitations to invite us more deeply into all sorts of good gifts and important places for growth, such as trust, community, and humility. As I listened as best I could in the days leading up to the start of the New Year, I realized that once again God was using my human finiteness to show me the first word for the year: humility. I am not a machine. Nor am I God. Like you, I am a beautifully woven, deeply cherished, and limited human being. And that is good. God was, and is, inviting me once again into the humility of learning “to worship him as he made us: dignified, purposeful, vulnerable, finite creatures” (Kapic, You’re Only Human, p. 15).

There are, of course, many more layers in the living of humility, but this is the place God is (again) inviting me to begin: learn still more deeply the beauty of being a limited human being.

In Kelly Kapic’s wonderfully freeing words,

“We are not under any requirement to be infinite—infinity is reserved for God alone. Rather, in and through our creaturely limits we are called to love God with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves” (You’re Only Human, p. 14).

Happy New Year, friends. As we enter 2024, may our tender and compassionate God continue to guide us each deeper into his love, the only place we can find true rest.

___________________

P.S. As I’ve been reflecting on what my soul needs to thrive this year, I’ve been finding a couple of (free!) resources helpful. The first is Jen Pollock Michel’s wonderful list of daily, monthly and yearly Examen/Reflection Questions which you can find here (fourth from the top). The second is Emily P. Freeman’s list of ten questions for discernment, which you can find here.

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