Hoping does not mean doing nothing…And hoping is not dreaming…It means a confident, alert expectation that God will do what he says he will do. It is imagination put in the harness of faith. It is willingness to let God do it his way, and in his time. ~Eugene Peterson
My One Word for 2016 was hope. At the beginning of last year, when the word pierced my heart I didn’t want it. Just the same way I haven’t wanted any of the other one words God has given me. But it was mine and I knew it, in the way that a child knows when their mom is calling to them, even as they pretend not to hear.
A year ago this week, we plunged ourselves voluntarily, into the dream of moving, and began the long, arduous process of preparing (in fear) to put our then-home on the market, with hope of finding something better suited to both our family’s needs, and the budding call we heard God whispering to practice hospitality in new ways. The what-if’s nearly suffocated us, as we fought to hope in God’s faithfulness.
Last January the word hope felt like the anchor that it is (Hebrews 6:19), but my perception, not surprisingly, was off. In those days, hope lacked for me, the buoyancy I thought I needed.
Indeed, I nearly drowned in waves of doubt.
The weekend before Easter, we worked for 36 hours without sleeping, moving the last of our belongings from one home to the next. Our hopes were realized in a relatively quick sale on our house, and the purchase of a dream-come-true kind of space.
God didn’t make the way smooth or painless. I had my time-table, and He had His. In His time though, He made it available. He didn’t unlock the doors to this dream because we “deserve it”, but because He had a purpose and a plan. While we only sensed it then, we are now living in the slow revelation of His purposes.
In April I attended the Festival of Faith and Writing and after attending a particular talk I had originally planned to skip, God used the words of an Accidental Saint to break through the hard shell I’d protectively been sculpting around my heart. Poor Shannan had to sit beside me while I cried my eyes practically shut from the breaking.
It was the ugly-cry to end all ugly-cries.
Hope packs a solid punch if you let your guard down. (Let your guard down, the recovery is worth the wallop.)
In July, after a hefty disappointment and a forced shut-down on a project I’d been working steady on, I fought harder for hope than I think I had all year. The thing about having a one word is that it is neither prescriptive nor encroaching. God doesn’t fit within the boundary lines we like to draw for Him.
Every time God has given me a word for the year, it has been more of a theme than a definition. It’s been a rope to cling to in the descent. A guide. A reminder of what God is doing. But it’s never as clear-cut as it seems like it should be. Detours abound.
Now, it’s a new year, time for a new one word.
In the days leading up to New Year’s I prayed, I begged, I pressed and pushed and nudged at God to confirm the word for me. I believed He would–He has now for so many years. But every time I prayed, what came back was never a word.
Instead, a burning question:
“What do you want me to do for you?”
This is Jesus’ question to the blind man in Mark 10:51. It’s the same invitation God gives to Solomon in 2 Chronicles 1:7. But it’s not only a question for the disciples, the blind man or Solomon. It’s for us too. It’s a reminder that not only with us, but that God is FOR us.
The presentation of this question reminds me that God does what God does. “God works,” as Peterson wrote, but not according to the framework and timelines we want to assign to Him.
Rather than a word, it feels like the generosity of God cracks wide open in this serious question of desire, and need and hope. I don’t have any idea how to answer this question, but I plan to spend the next 364 days learning how to answer it.
God is doing a new thing.
Did God give you a word this year?
What do you want God to do for you?