January is a month of new beginnings. For many of us, it provides the opportunity for a fresh start, with renewed energy toward our goals and new hopes to carry us forward into the new year. It seems to offer us a blank slate ready for us to write a new story in our lives.
Simultaneously, though, it often seems that we are surrounded by reminders of how inept we are at keeping our commitments to ourselves and how likely we are to abandon ship. It shows up in ads, playing off our short-lived resolutions to workout more or in sermons reminding us that we can't change ourselves. You hear well-intentioned folks remind us that most of us fail by February, so what's the point? What is the point?
Sometimes we are mired in the past, entangled with grief or loss, bearing scars from deep hurts or painful trauma. Sometimes we are caught up in the present, overwhelmed by a never-ending to-do lists as we juggle
multiple priorities and struggle to look beyond the day-to-day. Dreaming of something more seems like a luxury, a waste of precious time and energy, or a fantasy, a dangerous exercise in futility and unrealistic imagination, or a season of discontentment when we should be grateful for what we have.
In a recent forum on youth & opportunity, comments surfaced about this younger generation of college students and young professionals, struggling as generations before them have to find their place in this world, seeking to figure out where they are headed and what they have to offer. And there was a sense that some of them are struggling in deep ways to imagine their future, to imagine a satisfying career path, or step into healthy relationships. What's the point of setting goals or dreaming dreams when there is so much uncertainty and fear about the future? (College students, I would love to hear from you on this and your experience thinking about the future.)
Sometimes our dreams are written off as foolish or dismissed by others. But sometimes they also awaken new life in us. They spur us to action, and give us new energy and hope. They give us something to work toward, motivation to look beyond the everyday to move toward something better for ourselves and others.
Last week, we commemorated the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, a man who dared to dream, to imagine a future characterized by beloved community. His dream of something more galvanized the Civil Rights Movement and continues to inspire us today to work for something more. With clarity, courage, and confidence, he boldly cast a vision of a beloved community, of a future where people are judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. He showed us the power of love to transform hate and divides, and gave us a compelling vision of racial justice that continues to motivate and inspire us today.
Yes, we may never accomplish everything we set out to do. But when we set out with clarity on our direction and purpose, we can actually accomplish quite a bit. Our dreams may not change the world as Dr. King's did, but it can change our world. We can write a new story in our lives and in our relationships. We can create new habits and let go of bad ones. Whether we hope for more fulfilling work or relationships, less divisiveness or violence, freedom from our past, or rest in our present, whatever our hopes are, God knows, He sees, He cares. We can entrust those hopes to Him, and boldly walk in them. When we dare to lean into those hopes and start walking toward them, it changes us. We find freedom from the same old paths, and find our way anew, with fresh energy and purpose as we move forward.
Don't give up on those New Years plans, friends, and don't let go of those dreams you have. Lean in a fresh and see what God has in store for you this year.
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