New Year’s Day is not my favorite holiday, if I’m honest. After spending a month preparing for and celebrating the coming of our Savior, we suddenly turn from reflecting on God’s great love and grace and indulging in cheesecake and dark chocolate to this day of self-reflection and self-examination, which for me, always turns into a day of self-loathing. New Year’s Day fills me with a sense of apprehension, this heightened awareness of my shortcomings and failures, a reminder of all those things left unaccomplished from the year before. It’s a day where I’m forced to call myself to the carpet and anxiously await the litany of failed expectations with which I’m certain to berate myself.
Expectations. There’s so much expectation surrounding the beginning of a New Year, and frankly, I’m overwhelmed by expectations, even if most are perceived, not real. To me it’s still a process of measuring myself by a set of impossible standards. Each time I take on a new endeavor I’m met with a barrage of fresh expectations. Sometimes I’m so overpowered by my fear of not living up to all the expectations that a new start brings that I find myself paralyzed, unable to move forward, so I just remain stagnant, stuck in the same place. This, my friends, creates difficulty in making resolutions.
This morning as I sat with pen in hand ready to carve my New Year’s resolutions into existence, I pondered all the possibilities. I considered the long-held resolution of working out my way to a set of cut arms, a valuable endeavor to be sure. Make homeschool more fun often tops the list. Or the all-encompassing be more positive. I like clear, concise, easy-to-follow, highly achievable goals. As I deliberated, I kept hearing the phrase “what if” in my mind. I had actually prayed on New Year’s Eve that God would give me a word to focus on for the year, thinking it would be something like joy or peace, I was surprised to find myself meditating on the phrase: what-if. It didn’t seem like a very biblical phrase, but perhaps that’s part of my problem, keeping God in His safe, predictable box. Earlier, in my morning devotion, I had also been struck by a phrase in the closing prayer: Help me adjust my life to Your priorities. So…what if this year, God is asking me to lay aside my resolutions and view life from the lens of His. What if I laid aside my expectations, everyone else’s expectations, the world’s expectations, and sought His. What if?
What if I took a step of faith and followed a dream that’s been brewing in my mind all year? What if I laid aside my fear of failure and pursued a masters degree in nutritional therapy and used my blog and podcasting to help people eat the way God designed our bodies to eat? What if my kids saw their middle-aged mom pursue new dreams despite being 42?
What would happen in my homeschool if I laid aside all the expectations I feel to conform to what I think everyone else thinks my homeschool should look like? Say that three times fast. It would organically become more fun because I’d listen to the Holy Spirit. There’d be a lot more snuggling and reading books aloud and less harried checking off lists and refusing to skip a concept in the textbook.
What would happen in my parenting, in my marriage, in my friendships, in my ministering if I let go of my expectations and let God take control? What would happen if I quit trying to micromanage every detail and leapt into the depths of the joyful unknown, trusting God to guide me? What if by laying aside my perceived understanding of everyone else’s expectations I took a simple step of obedience this year and stopped living the way I think I’m expected and lived the way He expects? It will likely be uncomfortable, humbling, raise eyebrows, be met with doubts, but maybe I would judge less, allow others grace, and be surprised by what happens when I step back and let God work through me and through others. What if I stopped trying so hard? What if I loved my enemies, prayed for those who persecute me, turned the other cheek, and lived out 1 Corinthians 13? What would life look like if I resolved to live like Jesus?
So my family and I will make our lists of resolutions this year and tack them to the refrigerator door, and we will try to accomplish our little list of special intentions, but this year we will do it not to meet the expectations of others or even each other. We will ask the question what if? What if we dreamed the big dreams placed in our hearts by our good, gracious Creator and trusted Him to guide us, knowing that if we don’t live up to our expectations, we will be blessed and better because we are pursuing His. We will always fall short, but the beauty is He meets us in that gap, Jesus fills the gap between our feeble expectations and His grand ones and out of His great love He makes up the difference. So this year, as you prayerfully consider your resolutions, don’t forget to ask: What if? What if this year, I lived in faithful, hopeful expectation of what God is going to do and watch the One who is able to do far more than we can ask or imagine blow the doors off our meager expectations? What if?