I’m about to get really preachy and Jesus-filled and spiritual here… I’m just saying. You have been warned.
This year, I am resolving not to make new year’s resolutions. Not that there’s anything generally wrong with the practice, but right now, I am more in need of grace. Before I create more standards to live up to, I need the time to forgive myself for all of my expectations that I’ve failed to meet this year. After all, expectations have been such big, enormous, weighty, overpowering things this year. After staying up half of the night before my 25th birthday sobbing about all the ways that I had failed myself (after all, 25 is the magical deadline I had fabricated in my head when I was supposed to have it figured out, whatever it means), I decided that I was done losing sleep over my expectations.
I read somewhere that instead of a resolution, you should choose a word to focus on each year. This year, my word is love. Not necessarily romantic love (though I wouldn’t mind a little of that, too), but love in a much broader sense. Love for my community. Love for my church and the wonderful messy diverse group of regular attenders that call our church home. Love for the church as a whole – which may be the most difficult one when spending one minute on the internet these days is enough to make my blood boil. (I keep having to tell myself: Don’t read the comments!!) Love for other places in the world that I have yet to discover.
A couple months ago, I wandered into a chapel service and heard something that has really stuck with me. The speaker talked about how when reading scripture, we don’t feel the weight of the timeline. We already know the end of the story, so we just kind of skip to the end in our minds, not really understanding what it really felt like to wait, not knowing the ending. The example he gave was Joseph. When Joseph is working as a slave, and when he is sitting in jail, we don’t think much of it, because we know that he will soon interpret some dreams about a famine and become the second in command in Egypt, be reunited with his brothers, and learn an important lesson about forgiveness. However, at the time, he was just as blind to God’s work in his life as we are. He probably doubted and got angry and went through all the same stuff that I’ve gone through over the past few years. The speaker said that we need to learn to say to God: “I’m willing to do anything, in any place, at any time.” We need to surrender our own timelines and ideas about how our lives should look. Unless we learn to wait well, we will become bitter and angry and faith-less. Maybe I just haven’t been willing to wait.
Somehow on that day, I found myself sitting in the back of the room praying that prayer with open hands, giving God permission to do something crazy with my life. Maybe that involves staying in Chicago and doing my job every day and loving my friends and my family and my neighbors. Maybe that involves moving somewhere else and loving people who need it more. Maybe that involves loving another person and starting a life together.
As my friend G.K. Chesterton says:
The man who said, “Blessed is he that expecteth nothing, for he shall not be disappointed,” put the eulogy quite inadequately and even falsely. The truth “Blessed is he that expecteth nothing, for he shall be gloriously surprised.” The man who expects nothing sees redder roses than common men can see, and greener grass, and a more startling sun. Blessed is he that expecteth nothing, for he shall possess the cities and the mountains; blessed is the meek, for he shall inherit the earth. Until we realize that things might not be we cannot realize that things are.
I’ve written about this before – the way that God seems to laugh. A laugh that is full of abundant joy and says “You just wait! You have NO IDEA what is about to happen here.” This year, it’s true. I have NO IDEA what is going to happen, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be crazy. And exciting, and heartbreaking, and unpredictable, and a little bit of everything else. This year, I expect to be surprised. Are you ready? Bring it on, 2014. Let’s do this together.