Please note: this was written as a three part series and supposed to post before the events in Washington D.C. on Wednesday January 6, 2021. The sentiment is still the same, but 2021 has already proven to be surprising.
Be realistic in your expectations for the New Year
My world is filled with people excited to be over with 2020. I agree 2020 will likely go down as one of the most difficult years in most of our lives. However, 2021 is not a magical cure for all of our problems.
Celebrating the new year and making big promises for the new year is nothing new. Over 4000 years ago, the Babylonians made promises to their gods at their new year celebration to improve themselves so they could win the gods’ favor on their crops. If they were successful in their resolutions, they would have good crops and if they were not the crops would fail. My family would be very hungry if our ability to eat rested in my ability to stick to a resolution for a year.
The Romans did the same around 46 B.C. They made promises to the gods of how to improve themselves and believed those actions were directly tied to their quality of life. Keeping of the resolutions would make an easy year for them and breaking them would lead them to a falling out with the gods. Again, I’d be in big trouble if life rested on whether I could actually stop drinking Coca Cola for a year (spoiler: I’ve tried many times, I crack by March).
Of course, if it’s good enough for the Romans – our Christian church wasn’t going to be left in the dark either. “Covenant Renewal Services” popped up for people to repent their sins from the previous year and to also make new promises with God as a renewal of His Covenant with us. It’s great to examine yourself and reflect on how you’re carrying yourself in the world, but I’m also really glad God doesn’t attach strings to His love for me. Resolutions for any reason are hard.
At this point, they’re mostly a secular thing and most people don’t even do them. Only 40% of Americans say they make them with roughly 8% reporting they keep theirs (I have no proof but I’d bet a few of those people are fudging too). I don’t make them any year, but this year in particular I think it’s best to skip them and limit my 2021 expectations for many reasons
I have been disappointed enough over the last 12 months. Some decisions were my own and many were not. I did NOT see a global pandemic of this magnitude happening in 2020. Maybe some people did, I’m not exactly always up in the news as much as I should be, but last year went off the rails more than I think most of could have predicted. We all want it fixed, but problems this deep didn’t start overnight nor will they disappear overnight.
The dropping of a sparkly ball at the strike ball at midnight does not mean the pandemic is over.
We don’t have a fairy godmother waving her wand to put things back to normal at midnight. We can celebrate hope for 2021 but still need to be realistic in our expectations. The vaccines are coming but it will still take months to get them out enough to make a dent in the virus. People are still struggling to stay afloat while we wait to safely reopen places. We have new leaders coming in to try and heal years of problems. No single person can change years and decades of problems immediately either.
We need to approach 2021 with hope and determination, not the expectation it will be better simply because it’s not called 2020. We have real work to keep doing as we continue having hard conversations, taking precautions to keep us all safe, and helping people around us. We need to just keep going and adding any more to our heavy burden entering 2021 just seems self-destructive at this point.
I’m welcoming 2021 into my life calmly. It’s a breath of fresh air, we are closer to moving past a virus and stepping back into life more freely. But we aren’t there yet. Not with the dropping of the ball, flipping of the calendar, or changing of the year. We still have work to do.
Let’s go into 2021 hoping things get no worse and enjoy the process of rising together. Last year disappointed most of us, but this year could surprise us.