By Brenna Rubio
Reflecting on the old year felt like serious work for me the last few days – more so than usual. I scrolled through old pics, made top 10 lists, sat around a table with my family sharing about all the new things I’d experienced in 2021, the highs and lows. I had some serious goose bumps analyzing the church’s most watched sermons list… And now it’s the New Year, and I have no big aha’s, no amazing “kairos” or visionary goals backed up by firm resolutions to lead me into 2022. Instead I have a bunch of unresolved questions, unfinished storylines, and a journey of becoming, of deepening, that seems to take odd turns and insist on rest stops when I least expect it.
One of the movies the elder half of my family watched together over vacation was Tick, Tick… Boom!, the semi-autobiographical musical by and about composer Jonathan Larson. Towards the end of the film, Larson is saying an emotional goodbye to an important person in his life, who asks him (paraphrasing here) what’s next. His answer: “Right now I have a lot of questions.” Their response: “That sounds like a good place to start.”
It does, doesn’t it? And for me right now, and perhaps for you, too, it also sounds like an honest place. Honesty, clarity, is always a good place to start.
Those Standard New Year Practices
It’s not that I’m anti the usual New Year’s practices, like setting resolutions.
Outcome goals, held with humility, grace and hopefully a sense of humor, can get us moving in the first place. Like wanting to be able to run for 30 minutes straight, and along the way, accepting that it will take longer than you thought to get there, and you’ll be slower than you imagined, and maybe even realizing midway that you really enjoy run-walk intervals or your post-run yoga routine more. Which when you break it down that way, almost stops being an outcome goal and becomes a value of wellness and body love that can be expressed in an infinite number of ways.
Then I have quite a few friends, including Bill, who find choosing a focus word for the year ahead really helpful. These too operate a lot like values, like compasses to keep us oriented in the everyday and in crisis. This is who we are and who we’re committed to becoming more fully. (If you don’t know what your values are, here’s an easy way you can start to explore and articulate them.)
But now alongside my values, with that “compass” in hand, I’m sensing the need to name my questions more clearly – to get less anxious and more curious, more intentional about the uncharted terrain I find myself in.
What Questions are You Asking?
Perhaps you’d like to join me. Perhaps starting the year by defining some big questions sounds like what your heart needs, too.
It might still feel daunting. It does for me. As Rachel Held Evans wrote:
“There is nothing nominal or lukewarm or indifferent about standing in this hurricane of questions every day and staring each one down until you’ve mustered all the bravery and fortitude and trust it takes to whisper just one of them out loud.”
Asking our questions out loud, even just whispering them, one at a time, is an act of outrageous courage.
I don’t have a big plan for you, friend, or a fancy download. (And I do love a fancy download.) I’m still in process myself. Here’s what I’ve got.
- Getting curious. Knowing that I’m not alone in my questions. Pulling inspiration from the great question askers in my life, on my bookshelf, in Scripture:
- “How long will you hide your face from me?” Psalm 13:1
- “Whom have you ever treated like this?” Lamentations 2:20
- “Why do you tolerate wrong?” Habakkuk 1:3
- “Why is life given to a man, whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in?” Job 3:23
- “What do I still lack?” Matthew 19:20
- Easily my favorite, though less specific – “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19
- Being patient. Trying some stuff. Letting the questions lead me forward.
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”Rainer Maria Rilke
Happy New Year, friend. Blessings on you, on all of us, as we name our questions.