Wednesday, January 02, 2019

The word was Joy

For a number of years, I have asked God for a word to pay attention to for the coming year.

Many of us are in the process of discovering that word for 2019.

It occurred to me this morning we don’t often share what God did with our word, say for 2018. 

My word for 2018 was joy.

I was both hopeful and nervous entering into 2018 as we had just made a big move to a far far away land called Wisconsin.

2018 turned out to be a year of hard things that at a few points could only be described as soul-crushing.

The events began in the late winter and the hits kept rolling in through the summer. It was a combination of things: multiple painful and long health challenges; looking for a new community; deep grief over the loss of community; cultural chaos; vocational shifts; seeing my idols with new clarity and deeper remorse; a tragic event in the life of a friend; other things too. It wasn't one thing. It was a combination of things. 

Simply, it was an ongoing invitation to wander in the wilderness and meet God anew.

It’s incredible to notice how God was preparing me before 2018. A few years ago, through my involvement in Life with God, I had discovered that when I get overwhelmed with what’s hard in life I have addictions I use to cope. When I get completely overwhelmed I sit down and shut down.

God was making space to notice the shutting down, to own it and to plead for Him to teach me how to do life differently this time.  This time, I was willing to learn how to do life with God when I felt completely overwhelmed. I was willing to die to the habits of protecting myself and take the Lord’s extended hand. He was very willing to do His part. My head would have told you I expected that. My heart was scared. 

So we were at a new beginning. I felt like a young believer once again.

This part will be the hardest to convey with words. Over the months, something happened in my heart.  God was loving and faithful and revealing His good intentions towards me. I wish I could explain how much more I believe this after slowly moving through 2018. The parts of my heart that were strongly defended against letting him in were slowly cracking and crumbling. He was showing me how to let go. What to let go of and how to embrace Him instead. My heart was becoming available to encounter God in places I had not been willing to trust before. I kept asking God to melt my heart and then I'd have a moment when I'd recognize melted as - less defended, more open and wanting the good of others.

An aspect of God’s faithfulness was His people. Without spending much time glancing over the year, I can count 30 people that had direct involvement in discovering God with me in the midst of these heartbreaks and needs. Some had a daily roll, others weekly and yet others were God appointments. The kind that comes just in time.

Then there were all the hours alone with God, pouring my heart out in journals. I filled at least three journals this year. At some point, the writing decreased and the listening increased. Oh, the things I came to see. The lies. The truth. The way to trust God in specific relationships and circumstances. Jesus knows me. Jesus sees me. Jesus wants to be with me - right here in all this hurt and mess. Jesus wants to teach me how to do this life. My ways are killing me. I might as well try His form of death. What does it mean to die with Christ? This question rumbled inside me.

In the early fall, JOY started to spark. That’s when I remembered the word God gave me in January. Wow. Wow.

Am I tasting resurrection?

Some say that our capacity for joy is equal in measure to our capacity to grieve. I grieved deeply in 2018. My heart was melted and opened up deeply in 2018. My relationship with Jesus grew more loving and trusting no matter the circumstances in 2018. My capacity for JOY is richer and more consistent than I have ever known before. I can say without reservation that every price paid to get here now pales in comparison with the generosity and love of God that I have experienced. I want to tell this story because I want to say one more time that Jesus Christ is everything He claims to be. 

Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. Psalm 126:5

What was your word at the beginning of 2018?

What is your story with God and that word? I would love to hear it.

My words for 2019 are "listen" and "cooperate". They make me smile with wonder.

May the words we receive help us to know Jesus more intimately, love him more fully and follow him more closely in 2019. Amen. 

P.S. To all the people who directly cared for my soul in 2018, thank for doing Kingdom work on my behalf. I love you.

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