For the last few years, I’ve started the fall (or what feels like fall, which is sometimes early August in the university life) by asking Jesus to give me four words. It started as a prompt from this article by Shauna Niequist, but has evolved to be something more than just goal setting. To me, these four words is opening my hands to what the Lord wants to teach me in the year ahead, the year that only he knows is coming my way. This feels incredibly scary to me and seems to reflect the trust I want to give the Lord, which is why I keep coming back to these four words.
The words that Jesus has given me each year could only be from him. The depth and meaning directly associated with those words that come in the circumstances that I find myself in the months that follow, could only come from him. I couldn’t create or conjure that kind of meaning if these words were something I was picking for myself. And I don’t lose those words, just because the year is over. Each year, it feels like the Lord simply adds to what he has given me in these special gifts. Words from a few years ago still find me, and speak to me in ways that can only come from Jesus.
2013: Asking. Courage. Open Hands. Delight.
2014: Enough. Hold Fast. Fear Not. Home.
2015: Grateful. Learn. Rest. Boundaries.
As this August came and went, I started to intentionally ask the Lord for my words this year. After a few prayers and no words, I recognized a spirit of entitlement rising up in my heart, as though these four words were something I deserved, instead of something the Lord could choose to give me or not. I considered just making up my own words, so I could have what I wanted. But even as I thought those things, I could see the ugliness of my own entitledness, that I would force a good thing into being.
And in those moments, the Lord reminded me that his words were worth waiting for. He reminded me that his gifts can not be forced or demanded. That is not the kind of father he is. He asked me to be patient and keep asking, and to trust him whether or not he gave me the words I longed for.
So, for all of September, I asked.
And as I asked for my words, I reminded my soul that I am not entitled to the Lord’s favor.
All of my life is a grace.
The words of the past have been a grace.
Any words in the future will be a grace.
My heart had become small and hard and full of whining, expecting the Lord to do and act and give in a certain way, instead of saying thank you.
And here in the midst of October leaves and our new home and pumpkin cookies, the Lord has given me the grace of four words.
And as strange as it is, I’m so grateful he didn’t give me these words when August came. I wasn’t ready. And I’m grateful he made me wait all of September. My heart needed to remember what is true about who God is, based on his character; not based on whether I got what I wanted when I wanted it.
And in his kindness and love, he still gave me words.
I think I was ready and even willing to not have them. I was okay to keep my four from last year, to go deeper with them and allow the Lord to use them more fully. I was even prepared to not think in terms of words at all.
The Lord changed my entitled, whining to a song of gratitude for his care for me. And out of that abundant care, he still choose to give me words.
These words feel precious, like the gift they are. They are words that have been actually been used by the Lord throughout the last few months for me. It feels so sweet to have prayed for something new and find something already dear and loved on the other end.
2016: Brave. Kind. Humble. Sincere.
This is my hope for the year ahead.
I hope for a brave and kind year, a humble and sincere year.
I hope this for my marriage.
I hope this for my friendships.
I hope this for my parenting.
I hope this for our home.
I hope this for my writing.
I hope this for how I follow the Lord.
I hope this for our transition with a new baby, when spring comes.
I hope this for my life, both the seen and unseen bits.
I hope for bravery and kindness, humility and sincerity.
And I am confident that he who began a good work in me will carry it on until completion. (Phil 1:6)
It is only with him that I can be brave, kind, humble & sincere.
Soli Deo Gloria.