I love the practice of setting a word for the year. This is only the second year I’ve done it, although in younger years I would make an effort of choosing a passage of Scripture for the year.
In 2017, my word was joy, but I cheated and made it #wildjoy (because hashtags can cheat one word into two…so be it). This word informed so much of my year. If I was presented with two options for myself, I made an intentional effort to take the path of joy. This led to more loud singing, more dancing, more free giving of my heart. Joy wasn’t something that happened to me – it was a choice I made. And it was wonderful.
The year wasn’t at all what I thought it would be. I don’t know what I thought the great joy of the year would be, but the greatest adventure of the year began with a terrifying phone call. In the late spring as I was continuing my fundraising and praying about what the direction of the next few years would hold for me, I received a phone call that changed everything. The lead pastor of our international church would be moving to a new position, and would I be willing to lead that congregation?
What I learned in 2017 was that joy often starts with fear. Well, to be fair, joy often starts with pushing past fear. It starts with risk and the possibility that we are taking the wrong path. Wild joy means putting yourself in a position to fail spectacularly. I’ve learned that without risk, joy is stunted. Every great love starts with the risk of having your heart broken. Every great adventure comes with the risk of failure.
Yesterday, the morning of New Year’s Eve, I stood before our congregation and told them, with a lump in my throat denoting deep honesty, that they have been my greatest joy this year. It is the honor of my life to be a pastor. It is a wild joy beyond what I could have asked for.
In November of 2017, I began to reflect on what my word for 2018 might be. In my life, the word comes from myself and from the Holy Spirit. It isn’t forced upon me, but it’s sort of…illuminated, if you will. There were several words I tried in my head, but none of them fit.
Then, in mid-November, as I was reading on a plane, it jumped out at me from within a short sentence.
The sentence was “Cultivate wisdom.” There is was. Cultivate. It sparkled and shouted so clearly – I knew this was my word. Cultivate.
I have to admit that I was disappointed.
Cultivation is about preparation. The book definition is about preparing land for crops. It’s not even planting season. It’s definitely not harvest season. Cultivation is about loosening up the hardened soil. It’s getting things ready to grow.
Cultivation is the boring part. It’s not even about seeing results – it’s about laying a foundation preparing things to be sown.
A year of preparation. A year of the boring part. A year of breaking up tough soil, a year of not expecting results. If you embrace the boring – does it make it easier?
And maybe the planting will come after. Maybe the cultivation will lead to a great harvest, to the fulfillment of dreams – but that is not for me to know now. This is for cultivation.
So there it is. 2018 will be about tilling soil, about preparing for good foundations. Cultivation is about doing things slowly, and well.
Oh how I wish my word was something to do with moving quickly, with fast results, with sparks and fires and slamming through brick walls. But it is not. It is about preparation.
So here is to a year of cultivation – a year of slow and well. Here is to preparation and tilling soil and celebrating the boring part.
Do you have a word or a verse for the year? If you don’t, I would encourage you to reflect on what yours might be. If you have one, share it below!