My One Word actually started with a phrase. Going into 2011, I couldn’t help but feel like this was my year to praise God in the wilderness. I’ve been reading the Bible from the very beginning for what feels like nine months now. I’m moving super slow and taking my time with each passage, trying to figure out not just what each sentence meant for the person living it but what it means for me as well. And I’ve figured out two things:
1. Even after 20-some odd years of being a Christian (but 20-some odd years of not always acting like it), I know very little about the Bible.
2. The Bible is an awesome book.
I stayed in Genesis for months on end because I couldn’t get over how fascinating it was. The more I tried to figure out what I was reading – journaling about it, praying about it, re-reading it, and putting myself in each character’s shoes – the more captivated I was and the more I saw my own thoughts and feelings reflected in the lives of the imperfect, confused, scared, brave, and ambitious men and women who came centuries before me.
For the first time in my life I think I’m actually reading the Bible and not just “reading” the Bible just to get through it. I’m having so much fun.
So in 2011 I’ve finally worked my way into Exodus. I knew almost nothing about Exodus going into it except that it’s the second book in the Bible and somewhere in it Moses parted the Red Sea and led the Isrealites through it. But now that I’m actually reading it, I’m shocked at how much it applies to my life. Which is how the phrase “praise God in the wilderness” stuck to my 2011 in the first place.
I know I’ve never endured half of the hardship the Israelites endured as slaves in Egypt, but I’ve had my own share of tough times. Looking back, I can’t help but feel like I’ve been set free from chronic illness, anxiety, pain, and suffering and given a brand new life. But I also feel like I’ve been set free from the limits I put on myself: who I thought I was, what kind of career I thought I needed, perfectionism, the desire to please others, or the crazy idea that a particular type of clothing or style of music or zip code or status as a VIP on the guest list meant I somehow “got it” when it came to things that mattered. (Yes, I hear myself and I know how crazy it sounds. But this post is about honesty, right?)
Anyway, throughout my illness God worked on me emotionally just as much as He did physically and in the process I felt Him stripping away all the ties that bound me to things that kept me within self inflicted boundaries. It wasn’t always fun. In fact, usually it was really painful (like when it took losing almost everything I owned to realize I didn’t need it in the first place), but after the shock wore off the end result was an incredible sense of freedom. I was fine. The world was still turning. Somehow everything felt so much lighter.
So that’s 2008-2010 in a nutshell. 2010 in particular was the big year of “surrender” and “risk” if I had to pick a word to describe it. I left the job I’d been in for nearly 4 years and the industry I’d been in for nearly 6 to go in a completely different direction that I felt called to go in. With no idea at all how it would turn out. Somehow I was pumped about the whole thing though, even if I did have my share of “what am I doing?” moments. Through it all I knew it was a risk God was asking me to take. A “Do you trust Me? Then jump.” year. He parted metaphorical waves and paved the way and all He asked me to do was leave the life I’d built and step out on a limb of faith with Him.
Which brings me to January of 2011. When suddenly, after one semester’s worth of classes in nutrition, a change in schools, and the reality check that technically I am “unemployed” even if I did pick up three part time student jobs, I feel like I have no idea where I am. Like seriously – I just looked back and realized I’m really, really far away from everything I know. Cue Exodus and that whole part about being in the wilderness. I feel their pain.
I’m getting to my One Word, and here’s how: One day when I was reading a short section of Exodus, it stuck out to me that Moses kept asking Pharaoh to let the Israelites go so they could praise God in the wilderness. He didn’t say, “Let us go so we can get to the Promise Land and never have any troubles again,” though honestly my guess is that’s kind of what they were all really thinking. But the first step was just getting to the wilderness and praising God. Then it hit me that Moses was speaking on God’s orders. Which meant that even though God had told Moses he was to lead the Israelites to the land that had been promised to them, first He wanted them to just go praise Him in the wilderness.
Then it struck me that that’s all God really ever asked of them.
He never said fight your way out of Egypt and make a run for it. Or find your own food out in this desert. Or even get yourselves to the Promise Land. Everywhere they went, He did all the work and just asked them to trust in Him.
Which is why my One Word for 2011 is TRUST.
Because right now I have no idea where I am in a lot of ways. I know I’m really far away from where I was, and I know I’m a little closer to where I’m going, but I have no idea how the next few years are going to unfold.
Add to that the financial insecurity of no longer holding a salaried position with pretty benefits. (And for the record, while I do believe financial responsibility is a choice, I don’t believe financial security is. My 28 years on this earth have taught me enough to know that financial security is a blessing, not the result of our own works.) I’m plowing forward knowing that my security was never really in that steady paycheck in the first place, but anybody close to me could tell you sometimes I’m really, really scared. For the first time in my life, I’m not following my own well laid out plan.
And of course there’s the fact that after a year of remission and feeling great, after embarking on a new career path to share with others what God’s done in me, I still have endometriosis and a newly acquired angry gallbladder. I know all things work for His purpose and my best, but taken together all of these things can occasionally have me feeling a lot like the Israelites when they got out into the wilderness and realized that without that big pillar of fire in front of them they had no idea where they were going.
So there it is… TRUST. Because somewhere between my old life and the Promise Land is the wilderness. And if God could bring water from rock and manna from the ground, I know He’ll find a way to give me what I need too so long as I keep my hope in Him.
The crazy thing is, since choosing this word, committing it to God, and sharing it with my family and friends, I’ve seen Him move in ways I never expected or could have imagined. So I’m going public with my One Word, and I hope that God will use the experiences of others in the One Word community to change our lives over the next year. I trust that He will.