The New Year Plan
Welcome to the first week of January!
This is the season of experts telling us “how to” create a plan for the New Year. Lists have been circulating for weeks now about “which questions to ask,” “5 things to consider,” and “how to choose your one word” for 2016.
And in the past I’ve done these things. And then some. I think it’s all good advice. And I don’t.
By mid-December I too, was thinking about what I want for the next calendar year. I think it’s part of the A-type personality of wanting everything done yesterday (and done well!) This is the first time in years, however, that we are a week into January and I haven’t written my list of goals for the year. Gasp, I know. I also don’t have a word, a phrase, or a verse to rally around either.
Something happened a couple of weeks ago and I have been hung up on this one thought: what if the “five-year plan” is not the best way to plan?
I was reading the Christmas story from Matthew, the part where Joseph is told to go to Egypt in order to spare the life of Jesus from the ensuing slaughter. As I read those few lines, from an often over-looked part of the story, I wondered if Joseph had answers for any of the questions that I’m sure he had:
“To Egypt, God, really?! Why?” “How am I supposed to support my family?” “When are we coming back?” “Will I ever see my friends again?” “How will I know when it’s time to return?” “Can you give me another sign of confirmation that this is what you really want me to do?”
But God did not answer. Not that we know anyway. Joseph was told to flee to a foreign country, and he went. Without question. Without a plan. Without an end to that story, or a beginning of the next chapter in mind.
I wonder if sometimes God wishes for us to do the same. Blindly follow. Without all the answers. Without clarity. Without knowing the whole picture. Without a 5 year plan.
When I think of Abraham, Joseph (from the Old or New Testament), Joshua, David, or the disciples of Jesus, I hear the same echoes given to them, “Just Go.” Often without a plan, or provision. Sometimes – in the story of Joseph from Genesis – it was without his consent. Joseph the dreamer was taken. Literally.
Abraham wasn’t told where he was going.
Moses wandered for 40 years.
David was on the run without a plan.
The disciples were sent out and told not to even take money for their trip.
Yet they went.
This definitely goes against the voice of every successful leader who claims the need to have a five and ten-year plan. I’m not dismissing the process of planning and having advisors, nor am I saying abandon these disciplines. What I am admitting to is a loosely held one year plan.
This is what my husband and I have half-joked about, but subscribed to, for years. People have often asked how long we plan to stay somewhere or do something, or what our long-term plans are and we respond with, “we have a one-year-at-a-time plan”. This is not due to being discontent, or eager for change, or irresponsible. We have merely chosen to hold the reins of our lives very loosely.
Some have called us gypsies (yeah, we’ve moved a couple of times). Others roll their eyes every time we talk about “God moving us.” Yet, for every person who frowns with disapproval, there are five others in favor of (dare I say, applauding) our loosely planned lives.
With the ringing of 2016 just a week ago, I am looking forward with the same vision. Except that this year I’m holding on to less than ever before. Of course there will be goals for our marriage and family, our financial giving, our health, home school, career and calling, but they are all subject to change.
The truth is that over the years my goals have become both bigger and more simplified. This year I’m trimming it back even more. The plans are less etched in stone and more like guidelines (we are more “guidelines than rules” people anyway.)
I want for the plan to intentionally position me to check in with God regularly. To seek His guidance not just for the big things, but the seemingly insignificant too: how to love my neighbor better, how to show my children what it means to “follow Jesus”, how to live as a follower of Christ in a culture that views us as narrow-minded, judgmental and religious, how to cultivate a stronger marriage this year than I had in 2015.
Purposeful goal-setting, stewardship of resources and listening to the experts are all tools to help us in the planning process. But I wonder what would have happened if Joseph had consulted business experts on how to financially survive as a young family in a foreign land? Do you think Moses sat down outside of Egypt to carve out five-year goals? Joseph the dreamer may have created a plan for his life at 17, but it was probably unlike how his life actually unfolded. I wonder what type of advice the disciples would have received had they sought out counsel on how to plan for their journeys?
I think sometimes we get stuck in the planning mode, and forget the directive we’ve been given. Others of us are paralyzed with fear because we only have a piece of the map, and we feel we can’t move without the whole picture. Some of us had a rough 2015 and the mistakes we made, or failures we endured, are plaguing our ability to move forward with confidence.
But it’s ok. It’s only January 7th. We can move forward. Confident that God hasn’t left us on the side of the road lost and without hope; He’s there. Even if you don’t have all the answers. Regardless of what you’re afraid of. If you feel like the road ahead is unpaved, broken, or invisible, He’s with you. He is for you. And His plan for you is good. Even if you can’t see it all right now.
God doesn’t want to be merely consulted on what our word for the year should be. He isn’t interested in just giving us confirmation after we’ve already wrote out our plan. Life with Him is the plan and He wants to write the story.
He wants for the conversation to be ongoing; for our ears to be attentive and our hearts ready to receive what and how and when He speaks. He desires that we live with hands that hold the reins loosely, regardless of how confident we are, eager and willing to yield to His will and His timing.