I’ve Made No Big Plans For The 2020s
This year, Sarah-Leah Pimentel made no New Year’s resolution, because unity with the heart of God is only possible if she’s not constantly chasing after new stars.
It’s the beginning of a new year and there is a sense of expectation in the air. It’s probably the same every year, but maybe there’s a little more excitement now because it’s also the start of a new decade.
In the opening days of the year, I read several articles that carried a hint of nostalgia, comparing the barely-begun 2020s with the 1920s.
The 1920s marked a time of great change. Europe had recently emerged from a devastating world war and the new decade offered the promise of new beginnings.
In America, the “Roaring ‘20s” prefaced the cultural revolution that would reach its peak in the 1960s. People defied the Prohibition laws which outlawed alcohol, and the flappers represented a certain liberation from traditional, social, moral and religious norms.
It was also the start of the feminist movement and the beginning of a battle for equality that continues today.
Looking at it from a Christian perspective, we recognise that the changes of the last century brought both opportunities and challenges to the Christian life.
The separation between religion and society, on the one hand, contributed to the breakdown of traditional family structures and values.
On the other hand, the deinstitutionalisation of faith meant that faith in God, discernment of the moral life, became a personal journey that involves the heart and the mind, rather than purely a set of rules to be followed.
Perhaps the transition from the previous decade into the 2020s is not all that different from what our grandparents and great-grandparents experienced.
As I scrolled through my social media feeds on New Year’s Day, I realised that we still live under a form of societal control. New Year’s resolutions revolved around plans for overseas holidays, more money, a better body—in sum, for a more perfect life. This perfect life is measured by dollar bills and a postcard version of reality.
Trying to live up to the unrealistic expectations of this new secular religion of personal success called “Status” becomes debilitating. Unless we can check everything on this list of values, we’ll be made to feel inadequate. The result is anxiety, anger, and mental illness.
I feel that, like the flappers of the 1920s, I also want to be freed from the ever-increasing expectations of how we define a successful life today. I want something else for this new decade.
Despite that, I’ve entered 2020 without really knowing what I wish for. I probably need a new car, but the old one still goes (some of the time). I’m likely to travel later this year for a conference and hope to be able to take a little time off. I am excited about a new business endeavour and really want all our hard work to pay off.
But these are all external things. What do I really want? What do I really wish for in this decade?
Of course, I want my loved ones to be healthy and safe. It goes without saying that I want to deepen my faith and my relationship with God. I want time to build the relationships with people who are meaningful to my life.
These are all good. But they are also what I pray for each morning when I wake up. That is not the stuff of New Year’s resolutions.
It occurred to me that I’m entering this new decade without any deep desires. There is nothing major I want to change in my life right now. I have no big plans and am content to simply carry on doing what I was doing before. In the hype of starting a new decade, it feels like I’m missing out for not having any big plans or expectations.
A friend of mine said that if I compare my New Year’s resolutions to someone else’s, I will immediately begin to feel inadequate. But as I get older, I realise that it’s more than that. These grandiose plans for the year are often about wanting more.
Ultimately, I realised that I actually want less.
I feel that if we fill our lives with so many plans and expectations, we miss the unexpected ways in which God surprises us by giving us what we really needed but didn’t realise. When we are hellbent on living up to unrealistic expectations, we become discouraged when our dreams and plans don’t work out, and often miss out on the far better plan that God has for us.
When we go in search of the big highlights in our lives, we risk not recognising the incredible wonder of every day. If we expect our jobs to be interesting every day, our families to inspire us constantly, our holidays to take our breath away, then we forget the value of the struggle and the joy of the ordinary.
God is in the mundane and repetitive work task. The Holy Spirit moulds us as we struggle with dealing with a wayward child, teaches us patience in the difficulties of family life. Jesus sits next to us in the car as we drive to work.
But we need to turn off the unnecessary distractions in order to perceive the presence of the Trinity in our midst.
God is not in the constant assault of new experiences. He is in the little moments of every day. Being present in the moment allows us to see the world through Jesus’ eyes.
This slowing down is what allows us to see Zaccheus in the tree amidst the bustling crowed. Quietness allows us to observe the widow placing her last coin into the offering box. Silence allows us to be ready for Christ to come in the last watch of the night.
But this unity with the heart of God is only possible if I’m not constantly chasing after new stars.
For this reason, I’m quite happy that I don’t have any New Year’s resolutions or any overwhelming expectations.
I want the Father’s love to surprise me. I want God to shape my year.
I would rather turn to the blank page of this year and wait for God to write on it.
What do you want for this new year and new decade?