I’ve had some good years and some bad ones, but last year, I wanted to do more than just let another 365 days go by—I wanted to really live. I wanted something new, and it started with one simple change that might make a big difference for you too. My life changed drastically when I started getting up an hour earlier.
I had dreams for my life that just weren’t happening until I took seriously that I had to be a part of the change.
Sounds obvious now, but I realized I had to prepare to live a new way—not just wait or hope for it to happen to me. So, for two years straight I purposely got up an hour earlier than the rest of my family to pray, read, reflect and write.
Why do this? I wanted to be a communicator, writer, and public speaker, but I had no idea how to start. In lieu of a better idea, I started devoting myself to it first thing in the morning. For a long time, it felt like a waste. I wasn’t seeing any growth, but slowly that started to shift. Eventually, I couldn’t stop getting up early.
There’s a family in the Bible who grows into a nation called the Israelites. They were slaves, and even though they were suffering in actual slavery, they were still afraid of stepping into freedom. When they first experienced it, you’d think the story was over and everything was great, but it wasn’t. They had to learn how to live free. Just like the rest of us, it took a bold move to do something new and a series of choices from that day on to keep living a new way. This experience in the Bible is referred to as ‘the time in the wilderness.’ The Israelites had to persevere through hardships. They had to trust in the promise of a future where they would experience wholeness and restoration.
The Israelites didn’t even know where their next meal was coming from unless God provided (which he did—just enough each day). An actual army chased after them to put them back in slavery, and God miraculously split the sea for them to cross where there was previously no path. They didn’t know where to go, but He showed up for them with a cloud of smoke by day and a fire by night. Paths to freedom are never easy. There are always roadblocks. Even with the mind-blowing provision God gave the Israelites, they still questioned. They’d receive a miracle one day and begin to doubt again the next.
God told them, ‘But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.’
Isaiah 43:18-19 NLT
I’ve definitely had a “wilderness” experience while learning how to grow from a person who dreamed of writing and speaking, to a person who is a writer and speaker. I felt unworthy and giving up appeared to be the only solution. I started and stopped many projects because I believed all I was good at was failure. Every writing goal I set felt like an impossible mission to complete. I needed a change. It all started with doing the new thing and refusing to quit. I had to forget about all that came before. While facing temptation to give up, I found teachers, friends, and opportunities to grow.
It’s human nature to give up and run back to what we know, but the road towards growth is marked with requirements to keep going. It is never easy, and the biggest roadblock is often ourselves. I was my first doubter because I could not find my way on my own. Expectations to be an expert immediately are tempting but unrealistic. Learning to embrace challenge is a part of growth. I had to toss out my old ways of thinking. I had to find community that wanted me to win. Like the Israelites, I needed a constant reminder for myself to keep going. I needed God to show up and lead me to the new place I couldn’t reach on my own, but I needed to aggressively move too. I needed Him to provide just enough just in time, create paths out of what seems like a dead end, and give me the strength to keep going. But I also needed to persevere when it would have been so much easier to quit.
Whether you believe in God or not, I believe He has so much more planned for us than we believe for ourselves. What we were yesterday wasn’t a big enough idea for who we are today. That dream we’ve had for years is too small for our reality He wants to offer us. There is an enemy who wants us to believe this is it and settle. Jesus said:
The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
John 10:10 NLT
Start this new decade with fresh eyes and eagerness to be great. Maybe you need to wake up early to practice a new skill you’ve never made the time to develop before. Maybe you need time every day to break off the old beliefs that are holding you back. Maybe you need to connect with the God who led the Israelites into freedom and learn to believe that he has good things for you too. Remember the stories of the slaves who made it to the promised land. This can all be true of us if we forget about all that held us back before. Believe that the new thing has already started ahead of us if we’re willing to change and act. Just don’t run back to where you came from, make a real change this year, and step into something new.