It’s been nearly 3 weeks since our dog died. Between my son’s birthday and Christmas, I didn’t write about it here, but mentioned it in my Christmas letter. Christmas eve, I took the kids to visit their great-grandmother, whose health had been slipping, and on New Year’s day, she too slipped through the veil.
I’m not sure I’ve processed any of it.
A wise man once said that there is a season for everything. In my head I hear the Byrd’s singing, there is a season, turn turn turn. While life turns over, this slow-coming winter season begins to blow its arctic breath over us. We’re turning over new dreams preparing to put our house on the market. Change comes whether we are ready for it or not. All the while I’m rolling paint on the walls, my “One Word” for 2016 keeps rolling around in my head.
It’s funny to me, the ways God always, always gives us what we don’t seem to know we need.
Six years ago, when I prayed about trading an armful of flimsy resolutions for a single word, I didn’t have the imagination for what that could look like. For years, I’d made hopeful promises to myself, and to God about how I’d make every effort to better myself when the calendar rolled over.
We all know how these things go. Try, struggle, fail, quit. Resolve to make more resolutions, the next revolution around the sun.
The idea of choosing “one word” for the year, rather than making resolutions intrigued me. The first year I decided to try it, God clearly gave me the word, “obedience” and the year after that, it was “trust”. For two years, God took me at my word, and so He would teach me to take Him at His.
After trust, came the words, “heal” (2013), “release” (2014) and “spend” (2015). None of those words were words I would have chosen for myself, but each of them were the exact words I didn’t know I needed.
Now, all these years in, opting for a word that means something, rather than a bunch of resolutions that mean nothing, I have have made peace with the fact that I usually don’t like my word–not at first anyway. This year, is no different. I wasn’t excited about the word God held out to me when I asked Him for it.
Isn’t this what we do? We ask for meat with want dripping off of our tongues, but then sigh with disappointment when God answers with manna–what is it, we ask. He doesn’t tell us, except to say the it is enough.
He surprises us while we shrug and ask, is that really it? So it was with me, when I prayed for my word for this year.
I heard the word, but I didn’t want it. (Truth be told, I am just arrogant enough to think I didn’t need it.)
Hope. It’s a word so overused and abused by our society. Hope, a tagline for politicians. Hope, empty promises packaged and sold for mass consumption. I’m not going to lie, my first reaction was ugly. The word feels tired and trite to me. Besides that, I’m a perpetual optimist–aren’t I always full of some measure of hope already?
But for me, choosing a word for the year, really isn’t my choice. It’s really a matter of accepting a word, rather than choosing it.
The process mostly looks like this: I pray, asking God for a word. Then I wait rather impatiently, daily poking and prodding Him for an answer, (because can’t He SEE that New year’s Eve is rapidly approaching?) The answer comes, and inevitably, settles in my heart like a stone. I question God. I double and triple check for confirmation. All the while the Spirit presses it into me like a brand.
I feel it deep in my bones.
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you…(Romans 8:9)
God has marked me with each one of the words He has handed down. Every year since I walked away from resolutions, God has carried on a revolution in my soul.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,..(Romans 12:2)
For the last several weeks, I’ve come face to face with the frailty of this world. None of this is permanent. Everything eventually returns to dust. Darkness presses in on every side.
But hope does not disappoint us.
Already, I can see I will need this word much more than I care to confess.
While I do live with a healthy measure of hope most days, I know God has much more to teach me about what hope looks like. I hear the Spirit asking me questions, peeling back layers I’d smoothed down, planted a flag in and claimed victory over. In the coming weeks, I hope to share a bit of the journey with you.
The new year is off to a difficult start here. The painful reality of life and death is leaving it’s footprint on our hearts.We’re grieving a variety of losses, wrestling with change, making peace with transition.
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
It’s going to be quite a year.
Do you have a word for the year? What is it?