Christmas is busy because it’s Christmas, but it’s also busy because around October I start thinking about starting a new year. For the last few months of the year I have high hopes of launching the new year strong. I think about what worked well the previous year, and what didn’t. And I try to land on one word to focus on in the year to come.
In 2017 my “One Word” was love. I wrote about how the word “love” annoys me because it’s such a cliché word. Everybody’s into love right now. But still I knew that I didn’t love well, and that’s what I needed to spend my year working towards.
For the most part, my year of love went well.
I was more conscious of my countenance in public and how it represents Jesus. I remembered that it wasn’t about me being in hurry, tired, or irritated. It wasn’t about me at all. It was giving love through a smile to someone who may not see another smile that day.
I caught my biting, exasperated, or impatient tone with the girls and tried to replace it with gentleness. I celebrated my friends’ endeavors big and without looking for recognition back. I focused on loving people in my mind instead of resenting them – something they never even realized I did against them.
So a year of love was good. But it was also really hard. Some people are just plain hard to love. Some people, from my human perspective, don’t deserve love from me. Some people I just don’t want anything to do with, and I wish I didn’t have to deal with them. For this love was hard.
But I learned something about love that gave me a new perspective.
When I show love towards people – any people, but especially people who I think don’t deserve it – I’m not doing it for them. I’m doing it for Jesus. I’m doing it because I love Him.
Every time I felt too angry or hurt to show love to someone, I imagined Jesus as the recipient of my love instead of the person. This is what got me through.
Love that is not rooted in Jesus is not truly love. (1 John 4:7-16) It’s selfishness disguised as love. And it’s trying to do the supernatural – loving anyone – in my own power.
It’s much easier for me to love Jesus than to love people. My heart breaks when I think about my love for Jesus. Kind of like my heart breaks when I think about my love for my girls. The truth is, however, when I don’t love people I’m not loving Jesus.
This is where I’ve landed at the end of this year. I love others because I love Jesus. It’s not about their love-worthiness. It’s about whether Jesus is worth it, and every time He is because He loves me. And I assure you most days I am not worthy of much love.
My One Word 2018
What about my One Word 2018? Like other years, I’ve batted around a few words, but one has stuck out over the others for the past few months.
In Bible study, we are studying the Israelites return to Jerusalem after their captivity in Babylon. A few months ago I came across this verse,
“For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel” (Zechariah 4:10).
After the Israelites returned to Jerusalem they laid the foundation of the temple, but then they stopped the work to complete it. God sent the prophet Zechariah to encourage the Israelites to continue to the work, and assured them that small beginnings are not lost with Him. In fact, God orchestrates the small and uses it for His glory which is always big.
This got me thinking about my own life. For a while now I’ve craved the small. We’re living in a time where everything is big and getting bigger all the time.
It seems that growing up bigger meant bigger possessions – homes, cars, clothes, and so forth. And that still goes on today. But today bigger is not just limited to the material. It now extends to the metaphysical. Is that the right word?
Now it is passe to strive for bigger possessions – think of the tiny house phenomena – but it’s vogue to create bigger lives – platforms, non-profits, social justice organizations, personalities. Improving one’s self and the world are people’s new “bigger”.
Honestly, I love this. With an INFJ personality type and being an enneagram 1, perfection is always out there waiting to be captured. At the same time, it exhausts me, and I’m not sure I’m always glorifying God. I think it’s more about glorifying myself.
In 2018 I want to be conscious of the small and not resent it because like God says above in Zechariah, the small has enough merit to be rejoiced. The small is what builds the big. And you know what? If the small doesn’t build something big, is that any of my business anyway? Whether small or big the only purpose for each aspect of my life is to bring glory to God.
This is hard for me because I compare myself to others – a lot. I ask myself, am I doing enough? Am I using all my gifts and resources? Am I settling in this western, American, Christian sub-culture that really makes me sick to my stomach many days?
The only questions I need to ask myself are, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ (Galatians 1:10).
With that I land this coming year on the word small. Savor the small. Reflect on the small. Enjoy the small. Rejoice in the small. Linger in the small.
My small today will not be my small tomorrow, and tomorrow I’ll miss the small of today.
Do you have a “One Word” for 2018? If so, what is it? Share in the comments!