Updated on December 31, 2016
Why I need a word for this New Year
2016 is down to its last few hours. And some folks are quite happy about this, according to my Facebook newsfeed. The death, destruction and chaos that have dominated the news cycles lately seem to have everyone running headlong into 2017 with the hope that it will be different. And it might be. A new year always dawns with hopeful possibilities laying out in front of our eyes like freshly fallen snow. But. I need a minute. I need a minute with 2016 before stepping forward into this new year. A minute to turn away from the news reels and the pundits’ predictions and to look at the path left by my own footprints. I need to see the goodness and the sorrow of this year all wrapped up together; to see where I have been before I cast my eyes on where we are going.
But quiet minutes are hard to come by around here; so I find myself rolling the last 365 days around in my head as I struggle to unwind some tangled lights. We are deep into the un-decorating, around here. There are knots and bends in these strands of lights that all seem to lead nowhere. How in the world did this happen? I stare at the glowing pile of twists and turns.
Looks a lot like this year, I think. And as my hands work the tangles, my heart begins to unfurl these pictures of how it’s all gone down, my 2016.
Work. That was my word for 2016. Ever given yourself a word for the year? I read about it a few years ago. These people who write things and say things, they all gave themselves a word, not a resolution, for the year. A word they prayed over, submitted before God and studied all year. And then they saw God use it to speak right into their ordinary days. It changed their years. It drew them closer to Jesus and gave them concrete ways to see him working in their lives. And while I loved reading what they wrote about it, I was pretty certain that they were just lucky. I was pretty certain it was just a gimmick and that it would never work for me.
But last year, as 2016 rolled in and the kids shuttled off to school, I felt a restlessness in my soul that I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t think. My heart desperately needed a way to focus; a way forward. And that’s when I remembered the one word challenge.
So in the cold dark of a January 2016 morning, I prayed, scoured the scripture, talked with friends and slowly I felt it emerge. Work. My word. My way forward.
The lights are still tangled and the kids are pulling at the decorations on the tree now. I drop the pile of tangles and struggle to organize all the ‘help‘. Over the buzz of the constant activity, I hear the words of the verse that has anchored my year.
“Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord, and work. For I am with you, declares the Lord Almighty… For my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear” (Haggai 2:4-5).
On the cusp of last year, I had no idea. No idea how God would pour those words over me. No idea how he would hold me up with them. The work of 2016 has been beautiful, hard and at times nearly overwhelming. It has pushed me to my limits and turned me in circles. But. It has showed me Jesus. I can think of no other year where I have been more aware of his presence. “My Spirit remains among you. Do not fear” (Haggai 2:5).
Sometimes you have to stand in unsteady and uncertain places to feel the steady hand of the One who holds the whole thing together.
I undo the last twist in the coiled lights and stretch them out nice and even on the ground. The bends have all led somewhere and now that I am finished with the untying, I can see it. Like looking over my shoulder at the pictures of the year, it makes a bit more sense in the end. The path seems to lead somewhere now. The days that stretched on endlessly have meaning when I run them right up next to the glorious ones where the work seemed perfect and clear. And they all point to the light.
“Be strong… and work” ( Haggai 2:4). The hardest work came with the good- byes that were said this year. I stand and half – watch the movie reel in my mind as it stops in those places; the hard parts.
And even over the scuffling boys and the falling ornaments, I hear God ask it of me, Can you see me? Right there. In the hard things. I never left you. Turn and see. In the change, in the sadness, in the loneliness. I was right there. I AM right here. Turn and see.
And right out in front of me, the straightened strands of lights illuminate a clear pathway on the floor. Slowly I get it. The twists and the turns in our years are often the places where we learn the most. In the easy and the even, we think it is us that makes it all go well. But the miracle is never in the way it all goes perfectly. The miracle is in the turning; in the seeing God with us. That’s where the light is.
I don’t know where you are standing today or where you have stood these last 365 days. But in these closing hours of 2016, take a minute. Look back over your shoulder. See the path behind you. Your path. See all of it; the twists, the turns, the knotty places that broke your heart a bit. Look right at them all and hear him say it. “My Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.” He was right there, all the time.
My word helped me see it. It served as a beacon through the parts of this year that felt dark and it cheered me on through the glorious parts. It wasn’t an answer, but it was a guide.
So maybe you have a word? Maybe you need a word? Or maybe you think this is all rubbish and just a gimmick that won’t work for you. I get it. But hear this.
2017 is year where God longs to show up for you. He longs to guide you and be present with you in ordinary days, in holy ways. And mostly, he longs for you to turn and see him.
Because he knows us. He knows there will be joy that lights us up from the inside out. He knows that there will be long days and places we will stand that will break our hearts. He knows. And he wants to whisper it into our souls here at the end and the beginning of our space. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” I AM right here with you.
Now go on and ring in that new year…
And may “The Lord bless you and keep you…. may the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace” in 2017 and beyond.
** SO, what’s your 2017 word? I will share mine with you next week. If you have one, I’d love for you to share it in the comments. And I totally get it if you think this is madness! Will be praying for all of you as together we walk into this new year.**