Sunday, December 30, 2012

Man Plans and God Laughs?

The topic of the moment seems to be New Year's Resolutions.  Not everyone is a fan of New Year's Resolutions.  Some folks hate them.  Some ignore them.  For some, they are a simple thing.  For others, not so much.

My father has a long-standing tradition of writing New Year's Resolutions on New Year's Day.  I've always thought of my father as a philosopher.  He is my model of pursuing the life of the mind while in this physical realm.  Some of my earliest memories are of my Dad with his nose in a book, and that's true to this day.  We have a special kind of conversation that happens through the books we give or recommend to one another.  Sometimes that conversation ebbs or flows, but it's always there.

As I entered adulthood, I followed my father's model for New Year's.  But I added my own twist.  I keep a journal, and have since I was 7.  I don't write in it every day, but I do write in it regularly, and I re-read it to gain perspective on myself and my reactions to the world.  When New Year's rolls around, I re-read my journal for the year, reflecting on last year's resolutions and on the year as a whole, and contemplating what the year ahead may bring and what I want to focus on as I enter this new year.  And then I write my resolutions.

This process is often a reminder to me of the saying, "Man plans and God laughs"  (though I'm not too keen on this vision of a spiteful God who laughs at us when things don't go the way we hoped).  Often, the events of the year push me in a direction so unexpected that my resolutions ceased to have relevance.  Still, reflecting on the year's events often helps me take stock of my successes, and the times when I let myself down or wish I had been stronger, and those reflections guide my new resolutions.

I haven't yet re-read this year's journal.  As of this moment, my resolutions seem much more concrete than usual.  I often make resolutions about character, things such as "seek out small moments of joy" or "listen more to others."  Right now, this year's fledgling thoughts for resolutions are "Read more books, even during the school year" and "Eat more fruits and vegetables."  These two seem awfully mundane.  Perhaps there is a reason I am feeling so very concrete.  Perhaps these simple, concrete resolutions can ground me through whatever unexpected events await me in the coming year.

Do you make resolutions?  What is your process for deciding on them?  Do you look back at them?


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    1. I've often had that same reaction (though with different language, but, hey - you've left the gender door open for God, so that's cool). In fact, after I wrote this one, I wrote a second post "What Makes God Laugh?" trying to reconcile this phrase with the kind of being that should be God, the benevolent and loving God everybody's always talking about.

    2. Here's the meat of it that matters to your comment:

      "Man plans and God laughs." Can that possibly be a laughter of empathy? When I think about it, I believe it can be. After all, surely God's plans don't always go the way he wants. Look at the story of Adam and Eve. Free will makes it a given that God's plans may not go the way he thought. Maybe he looks back on some of those moments, in the hindsight of eternity, and laughs. At the very least, this experience means that he can laugh in empathy when things don't go our way. He can laugh and say "I've been there, my friend."