I didn’t make any New Years resolutions for 2017. I suspect I was trying to avoid adding expectations to a list that was already going to leave me disappointed. Life’s inevitable failures are plentiful enough without me setting myself up for more. But what if the real reason we don’t follow through on our goals each year isn’t what we often assume? What if it’s not that our objectives are too unrealistic (they probably are)? What if it’s not that we’re imperfect and undisciplined (we definitely are)? What if, instead, it’s because we keep fixing our eyes on aspirations that are, quite frankly, not truly aspirational, aims unworthy of our best efforts and ability to truly hope and dream, goals that are unworthy of us? What if even our worthiest pursuits are simply not grand enough?
Losing weight, saving money, or learning to ride a unicycle are not so much unrealistic as they are uninspired. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do any or all of those things. But have we set our sights far too low?
C.S. Lewis makes this point incisively:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
As human beings, we are created to worship an unfailingly loving God. So it should not surprise us that the act of worshipping this God would benefit us in a number of ways. One of the primary benefits of a worshipful encounter with the Divine is that it mitigates our human tendency to severely shrink the horizon of our vision and the dreams it inspires. How easily we lose perspective. How readily our proximity to a minor challenge or opportunity makes it loom much larger than it really is. But when we lift our eyes in worship, we are graciously offered a glimpse of God’s global and cosmic vision.
This vision is perhaps nowhere more clearly articulated than in Revelation 21:
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
‘See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’
And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’”
Whatever minor goals you’ve set for yourself this year, I hope you achieve them. I hope I achieve mine, too. But I strongly suspect that things are not going to go as planned. Fortunately, God magnanimously ignores the limitations of our tiny, timid dreams. On this spinning ball we call Earth, hurtling through space with eight billion passengers aboard, God is interested in making more than cosmetic adjustments and incremental improvements. God is “making all things new.”
The vision recorded in Revelation 21 does not merely preview a future reality; it reveals the present reality of a God already at work and inviting us to join in. So as we worship together in this new year, may we be inspired to dream bigger dreams—dreams about how we can help wipe away tears, confronting the death and pain within us, in our communities, and in our world. And may we dream with hope that “a new heaven and a new earth” is not only possible but promised and palpable in the new life we can begin to live right now.