New Year, Same Me: Resisting Naive Optimism & Embracing Hope-Soaked Realism in 2019

2019 New year greeting card with fireworks

You can take the people out of 2018, but you can’t take the 2018 out of the people.

Both individually & corporately we carry the good, the bad, & the ugly of 2018 with us into 2019.
Minus the observance of  “Freedom’s Eve” for the descendants of enslaved Africans in the US, there is nothing particularly sacred on God’s timeline or “magical”  about the turn of the dial to a new year on the Gregorian calendar we have inherited. 

New year, same me.

New year, same you.

New year, same man in the White House.

New year, same ole unjust America.

Of course, we can repent & resolve to be better & do better in the new year. Yes, there are experiences in God’s presence that radically change our life’s trajectory in a moment!

Holding space for all the above, it seems to me that a hope-soaked realism about the possibilities of 2019 serves us better than a naive optimism. Let’s be honest—many of our grandiose declarations of new year change quickly devolve back to the mediocre status quo.

I wonder if somewhere hidden in all of our “new year, new me” announcements is a misplaced desire for value & significance. Are we seeking to cover our insecurities, shame, & guilt with the fig leaves of “sick-cess & achievement”? To be clear, there is nothing wrong with wanting to achieve goals.

My concern here is two fold:

First, most of our resolutions are not “radical”; meaning they do not “get at the root”. True personal & social transformation does not come via surface level “redecoration” it comes through a deep reorientation. To quote one philosopher:

“Moving a few rocks around on the surface, but not the riverbed itself isn’t change. The river still runs the same way.”

New endeavors in 2019 may appear to be taking us in a “new direction” but in many cases our souls & societies remain bent towards the same toxicity.

My second point of concern is how the cultural winds of the new year often carries with it an unhealthy pressure to pull off amazing feats. Even when its couched in “for the glory of God” language, the feverish demand to PRODUCE, PRODUCE, PRODUCE in the new year fosters a crippling anxiety in some of us & it further enslaves others into an identity centered on “what they do” versus “who they are”. Unfortunately, too many of our faith leaders exasperate this pressure with sermons animated by hyper individualistic “wish fulfillment” theology that re-images Jesus as a “life coach” who helps us accomplish our will, not His.

But what if we went at this thing another way? What if we took a LONG deep breath & said to ourselves:

It’s ok to be unimpressive.
It’s ok to be broken.
It’s ok to lament.
It’s ok to rest.
It’s ok.
Rest in the Grace of Jesus.

At the end of the day (and this new year), your worth is not be rooted in what you produce or achieve. Your worth comes from being made in God’s image. You are loved with an everlasting love by a God who through Christ & by The Spirit is already at work in our world, bending it towards healing justice.

May the “unforced rhythms of grace” propel us into every good work God has prepared  for us in 2019.

Happy New Year!

 

 

blog written by Terrance Hawkins

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s