We’re halfway through into the first month of this new decade, and that amps up many people’s expectations. People are making resolutions. We look forward to the future with bright hopes, a new weight loss plan, a new gym membership, new ideas, maybe even new friends, and fresh inspiration.
No more will we put off our goals, right? This is the year that we will lose that weight, write that book, get that promotion, start up that new business venture, or, maybe, even find our significant other.
And yet, for some reason, when the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve, nothing really changed.
I’m not here to preach to you that change takes a lot of time, and effort, and work—which, of course, it does. Change is tedious, like trying to make a hole in a board of wood with a pin needle—we know.
I am here to ask though: have you been disappointed this past year?
Be honest—I know you have been. Maybe someone let you down, maybe you didn’t get the job you applied for—maybe you had an unexpected bill to pay, or unexpected duties to fill, or maybe had unexpected health symptoms. Maybe you arrived late to an appointment you expected to be on time for.
Whatever it was, you were disappointed, and so you resolved to avoid that disappointment again. Perhaps some of your New Year’s resolutions revolve around avoiding more disappointment.
So this leads me to another question: When you had been disappointed, what were your expectations? You expected that person to be there for you, you expected that you were qualified for the position—you expected for a bill not to come in. You expected to be on time for that train.
I must admit, I like it when things go according to my plan. But a lot of those expectations are based on a world where I can control the unknown variables—and I can’t, because I’m not God. You can’t control how other people are going to act.
The truth is, the plans for your day hang in the balance of everyone acting in the way you want them to. And yet, only God can control that.
So what can you control? Not much, I’m afraid. But you can control yourself and your own actions. You can control your approach to the unexpected. Have you asked God where He wants you to be right now?
Keeping this in mind, I haven’t done away with resolutions entirely. But my main one for this year is to—wait for it—: lower my expectations. Does this mean that I don’t have goals? Absolutely not. But I’m trying to rid myself of my own expectations so that I can listen to God’s expectations instead. In this hustle culture, where we are told to expect more, it feels counterintuitive.
What might lowering your expectations look like? Maybe you wanting to start a business, but getting all the cogs in the wheel to work together is taking longer than expected. Be okay with the process. Maybe you’re wanting to work on your writing, but life keeps getting in the way. That’s okay. Work on life instead, the time for writing will come. Maybe you’re late for an appointment. Be okay with the fact that you may have missed being in a car accident, or were able to deliver a smile to someone you wouldn’t have met if you were on time. Maybe Christ is working on your patience, your generosity, your gentleness. Sometimes the Lord doesn’t change us immediately, but rather gives us the opportunity to use the qualities we have been praying for.
The other night I was late for a Sunday evening church service (yet again). I was frustrated with myself. I’m chronically late for everything. But in being late, I arrived at the church door at the exact moment as a friend I haven’t seen in months. If I had arrived earlier, as I had expected to, I would have missed out on that blessing. I have to realize that God’s plans are better than my own.
There’s a lot of unlearning to do. Maybe the radical change you’re looking for in your “new year, new me” doesn’t come out of expecting more, but expecting less. And maybe that’s radical enough.