It is time for a new year, again. It is not always easy to welcome a new year. We are still cleaning up after the holidays, returning gifts and paying bills. It is cold and dark. We are tired. Some of us have just said our good-byes to loved ones not seen often enough. For others among us, the pain of abusive or absent families experienced during the holidays lingers. Some of us ate too much; others ate alone. It is difficult to summon energy and enthusiasm for a whole new year. Too many expectations and too few internal resources.
One of my favorite books is Wm. Young’s The Shack. It is a fantasy in which a desperately hurting, middle-aged man finds himself sharing a wilderness shack with God for a week-end. Mack needs to know God if he is ever to let go of his guilt, shame, and performance orientation. Over the course of the week-end and many conversations with God, Mack begins to correct many of his faulty notions about who God is. He begins to let go of his guilt and shame; the Great Sadness that has descended upon him since the murder of his daughter begins to lift. But he still doesn’t have all the pieces put together. As the week-end begins to come to a close, Mack asks God what He expects of him. God is appalled at the question, and Mack learns the most important truth about God: God is a God of relationship, and He wants, first and foremost, relationship with Mack. God tells Mack that relationship is not about expectation, but rather about expectancy. Partaking in a relationship is not driven by duty but by desire and joy.
If we take what Mack was learning and apply it to our New Year’s perspective, we need not sigh or wince at the prospect of a new year. The New Year is not about making resolutions to finally “get it right,” or improving ourselves so that God will be pleased with us, or even to fix ourselves so that God can use us. The New Year is God’s invitation to look back and appreciate His redemptive and faithful goodness and to look forward with anticipation of what our Savior and Lord will do in our lives in the coming year. Our Master is calling us to draw near to Him in faith. Yes, we may need to confess and repent of sin that keeps us from a genuine faith-relationship with God. But as we lay our sin and our faith before our Master’s feet, He will cleanse us and take the smallest drop of faith and magnify and multiply it to accomplish His glorious purposes. We can face a New Year without the doubt and fear of failure that come with expectations and with the excitement and joy that comes with the certain expectancy that our God is living and sovereign. Our God delights to fulfill His purposes in us and through us. Even on a dreary winter day in New Jersey.