Picking a “word of the year” seems to be all the rage right now, with popular bloggers selecting vision words like zest, intention, or create. If you have no idea what this is, it’s essentially the concept of having a motto for the year that is all wrapped up in one word. It impacts your choices, your attitudes, and your behaviours. A couple years ago, a friend shared this concept of having a word for the new year during a Young Adults sermon and suggested the idea of selecting fruit of the spirit words. CAUTION: DO THIS AT YOUR OWN RISK.
Let me explain. By selecting a fruit-of-the-spirit word (joy, kindness, peace, etc) and praying that word into your life, your choices, your attitudes, and your behaviours, you are straight up asking for it from God. I mentioned this in a previous blog post but praying for joy does not *poof* make you joyful – instead God sticks you in situation after situation where you have to [struggle] choose to be joyful. God loves to see us grow, especially when we are actively trying to grow to be more like Him, so if you ask for it – He will come through in refining you. And to be refined, you’ve got to, you know, go through the fire. 💁
Before I knew all this great wisdom, I decided to go ahead with that friend’s idea and select a fruit of the spirit word for the year 2016. I didn’t put too much thought into which one, cause I figured they were all good, and just picked the first one that seemed to stick the most in my mind. That word was patience. Anyone who knew my spiritual journey in 2016 is probably spit-food-out-of-your-mouth laughing right now because 2016 was indeed a lesson in patience. You see, that year I felt so stuck. I knew that God had a unique thing that He was about to reveal to me so that I could step forward into a sense of purpose and calling and direction. I felt so strongly that this was a job and applied to position after position and literally begged potential bosses to let me in. I felt like I was waiting for the green light from God. I clearly didn’t think it through that much when I chose PATIENCE to be my word for the year because God taught me over and over and over to be still, to wait on Him and Him alone, and trust Him in the waiting. I felt like I was left with nothing to hold on to other than patience. Pick your word carefully, because if you choose “patience”, your year will look like a lot of waiting. Hindsight being 20-20, I can see how God used this year to teach me so much patience and how is strengthened my relationship with Him – but that was just the beginning.
January 2017 rolled around and it was time for a new word (Yes! No more being patient!). Going with the same strategy of not putting too much thought into it but just casually settling for the first fruit of the spirit word (FOTSW from here on out cause it’s getting long to type) that kind of stuck, I picked faithfulness/faith (ASHLEY WHAT WERE YOU THINKING). (Side note: I really picked two words in 2017, a FOTSW and a non-FOTSW and God came through on both so you just can’t trick Him). Friends, God loves when we are willing to be challenged, grown, and stretched. But pick your word carefully because if you pick the word faith, GOD WILL CHALLENGE, GROW, AND STRETCH YOUR FAITH. This was the year that God told me to quit my comfortable job, enter the ministry, fundraise my salary, get in over my head, and be a little radical. If you haven’t already seen it – this was the topic of my first blog post. That post mostly sums it up, but let me just say, my perspective on faith has changed drastically this year and I have learned how faith is an action in a response to God’s promises.
So, now it’s 2018 and people left right and center are posting their “words”. I implored the same strategy as previous years and have essentially just picked the first FOTSW that felt sticky. Love. Right now I’m mostly thinking that I just want to do a better job of loving God, loving my husband, loving my friends/family, loving my (literal and figurative) neighbours, and self-love. But you just KNOW that God wants to do more than I could guess or imagine with this one too, and that a year from now I will be telling you about the crazy God-thing that truly had me struggling to love and forever changed the way I viewed love. What have I signed myself up for!?
Friends, as I’ve said before, God loves to see us grow and to help us become more like Him. This is no cake walk. This is some hard and challenging stuff. But it is so worth it.
This past year, I came to the realization that if I could not act on my faith, what good was it? (Faith without works and works without faith – James was onto something here). Allowing God to challenge you and change you is hard, but if you are a Christian and you are not being challenged and changed by God, then what are you doing?
So, pick your word carefully. Invite God to change and challenge you, in ways you could’ve never predicted. It’s going to be a wild ride, but it’s going to be a wild ride with a God who is oh so patient, faithful, and loving.