If your New Year’s resolution involves posting more trivial updates online and you still don’t succeed, maybe you are the kind of person for whom New Year’s resolutions are just not a thing. My New Year’s resolution for the last three years has been to update my Goodreads regularly, and I’ve failed every year, even in 2018 when I attempted the 52 Week Reading Project (I ended up somewhere in the 40s, which is still pretty respectable).
Well, maybe my failure isn’t entire. I’ve made vague resolutions to prioritize my writing more for each of the past three years, including this one, and I suppose you could say I’ve succeeded there just by virtue of even kind of updating this blog. But since I have never once in my life run out of reasons to shame myself for falling short of goals both real and imaginary, it seems like inviting trouble to give in to the peer pressure to openly and stringently observe an occasion specifically for setting audacious goals, and ones (often, though certainly not always) influenced and informed by the expectations of our world of empire that range from laughably implausible to actively pernicious.
So it was a relief to re-center God in the conversation around a new year, thanks to a message from Valerie that seemed to grow new shoots like a pothos (a plant that even I cannot kill), wrapping itself around and through the hymns and prayers and lessons and special music. Drawing on Isaiah 43:18-19 (read so beautifully by Faith), Valerie reminded us that, while our will waxes and wanes, God is constantly doing new things, unbound by human strictures of space and time. The real challenge is not summoning our own energy, but trusting rather in a more inexhaustible source.
Inexhaustible? Inexhaustible as Trump’s appetite for retweets, as the fires raging in Australia, as my own small appetites that nevertheless chip away at an already fragile planet? I eat a cup’s worth of yogurt and toss the container, which will take up to five hundred years to decompose if it’s not recycled, and I never which number etched on the bottom tells me if I can recycle it or not. I write small things, clearing a small space in a crowded life to try to integrate the faith about which I say I care so deeply into what I think and do next, and promptly get caught up in despair about folks asking for money on the train and about an e-mail to which I can reply precisely nothing that is guaranteed to fix a problem or even illuminate a mental corner or two. My efforts feel less than small; they feel inconsequential and stale.
So what do I do? I write the thing. I enter the book on Goodreads, and if I enjoyed it, especially if it’s by a lesser-known author, I add a star rating and a review. I choose to cook the leftovers and wash the container to use it again. It all feels so small, but sometimes it also feels new, alongside a God who is always doing a new thing.