Do you know what I love about a new year? It’s the same thing that draws my stomach into my throat. Anticipation. Is there anything better? Is there anything worse?
Anticipation brings the opportunity for hope. Bright eyes, looking out at a horizon full of potential and space to be filled with life. But, it can also induce stress. Anticipation can fill your ears with the whispers of “what ifs”. It’s a little bit room to breathe and a little bit waiting for the shoe to drop.
For me, I need something to keep me grounded between the two extremes of anticipation. If I’m not paying attention, I will swing all the way over to the bright side and start counting my eggs before they hatch. This of course tends to send the pendulum swinging back to the wings of worry when things don’t move in the direction or pace I had expected. And so, the word and verse for the year help steady my feet and heart as I move forward.
Some years, it takes weeks to land on a word. Cultivate came in the span of approximately 5 minutes. It makes sense. It has been a year of being stretched beyond the limits. God has been faithful beyond expectation. Now, He is asking for me to dig into the gifts He has given. He is inviting me to the slow, intentional process of partnering with Him in the growth of those gifts. I must admit that this word intimidates me due to the reality that every plant I have ever attempted to cultivate has shriveled up and died in a matter of days, weeks at best. I don’t have the best track record in the realm of cultivation, but maybe this will be the year the roots hold strong.
These year-shaping words always take on new meanings by December, so who knows how “cultivate” will unfurl across the field of 2018, but from my current view, here is the significance I see:
I will cultivate relationships. God has filled my life with people. I have a church, a community, and students that bless and challenge me. These relationships are not easy. They take work. They have thorns. But they are beautiful. What I discovered in 2017, or rather re-discovered, is that staying, being patient, and initiating difficult conversations pays off. It is easy to give up on people, ourselves and others. It is easy to leave. I will not leave. I will cultivate.
I will cultivate gifts and talents. I have a little more than a year of seminary left in front of me. I’m antsy. It’s taken longer than I planned. And still, I believe it is worth the time and effort. I will cultivate the lessons God is teaching me through grad school. And, I will cultivate my writing. I have committed to writing a study on a passage from Exodus and it scares the living daylights out of me. I’m great at starting. Not so much at completing.
I will cultivate responsibility and generosity.
I will cultivate patience and peace.
I will cultivate laughter and gratitude.
The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives.
Though they stumble, they will never fall,
for the Lord holds them by the hand.
Psalm 37:23-24 (NLT)
Unlike my word, this verse did take a bit of time to settle on. I was on the lookout for a verse of action. Some word of truth that would tell me what to DO. It seems that what I’m supposed to DO this year is trust. I mentioned in my year-end reflection that the Lord recently asked me to trust him for something that I had previously worked through to the point of being ok if the answer was always “No”. Even in the two weeks since, I have been totally disarmed in this area. I feel raw and vulnerable and my very loud doubts are certain that I am being set up for disappointment and failure. I literally said out loud to the Lord, “If you ask me to be open to this and it doesn’t happen, I don’t know that my faith will survive that.” Even as I spoke those words, I knew it wasn’t true. My faith is shaky at best, but the one who holds me up, He is steady and He will not let go. I believe God is going to ask for more of my trust and availability before I begin to see the result of what He is doing here. And I think that is why this is the verse He gave me.
There will be other reasons as well. Life in general is full of challenges. I love that verse 23 says, “He delights in every detail of their lives.” What a sweet picture! He cares about the details. He LOVES the details. He gets down right into the middle of the details.
I can guarantee that I will stumble this year. There has yet to be a year of my life where I haven’t. But, I get up and walk on because the Lord holds me.
2018. A year to cultivate and trust. What is shaping your year?