At the beginning of every new year I choose a focus word. Nothing fancy, special, or magical about it. Just a simple word that I can rely on throughout the year. My word helps me clarify and articulate my vision for the year. It helps me stay focused and set goals that help me accomplish my vision as the weeks and months tick by.
In 2015 my word was “Grateful.” 2016’s word was “Vision.” And last year’s was “Commit.” Several months ago, God began bringing all these words to my memory. He reminded me of the richness of each and every word. He showed me how deeply rooted these words are within my spirit and he peeled back the layers of meaning they have acquired over the past few years. And then, through absolutely NO coincidence whatsoever, He used a book I was assigned to read for my coaching class to synthesize them. Before I recognized what was happening, He had dropped a dirty, four-letter word into my heart and I knew it was my word for 2018: “Work.”
At first I was sure I had heard Him wrong.
Work? Could there be a more anticlimactic word?! There’s nothing inspirational or moving or motivational about the word, “work.” It feels hard. Heavy. Burdensome. “This is not at all what I was going for God, ” I replied.
But through the pages of that book, I came to view the word through the the lens of a man in the Bible named Nehemiah. The author talked about how Nehemiah received a vision, prayed about the vision, and waited for his moment. And when the opportunity came his way, he travelled to the Jerusalem and led the people in rebuilding the wall around the city that had lain in ruin for over a century. As I turned page after page, I watched the author chronicle how Nehemiah had accomplished this incredible work. I noticed all the moments when he could have stopped and come up with any number of reasons why this whole undertaking was a bad idea in the first place. Yet there he remained. He pointed out how Nehemiah worked beside his people–section by section, stone by stone–just.rebuilding.the.wall. All my words flashed across my memory as I observed how, atop that wall, he diligently labored–grateful for his opportunity and committed to his vision. He didn’t get sucked into the drama unfolding around him. He didn’t get distracted by the people whispering behind his back. When his loudest critics taunted him with false accusations he didn’t stop working to defend himself. When they tried to lure him from his work and engage him in fruitless conversations, Nehemiah refused to budge. As a matter of fact, he issued one, simple statement via messenger as his reply, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down” (Nehemiah 6:3).
Soon, Nehemiah’s vision began bleeding into my vision. During my quiet time, I took my Bible and explored the pages of Genesis and wandered into the garden of Eden. I watched Adam working there. I saw him thoughtfully naming animals. I imagined him tending all the green plants he was given for food…preparing the land…growing that which would provide nourishment for himself and his helpmate. And the longer I watched these two men work, the less dirty that four-letter word seemed.
I began to see God’s vision–my work–for 2018:
Carefully tending the hearts of my family members.
Diligently sowing peace, grace, and wisdom in my home.
Purposefully digging criticism, fear, and anxiousness out of my own heart.
Intentionally taking every opportunity to spread joy, hope, kindness, and love.
Thoughtfully partnering with others as they work to discover the tools they need to walk confidently in their calling.
Somehow, the word ‘work’ stopped feeling quite so heavy and burdensome. Now it just feels authentic….true….and a lot like freedom. Tending to my work gives me the freedom to flourish as the woman He created me to be. It allows me to be a lady who confidently represents Him well because I trust the gifts and talents I’ve been given and I know how to use them to benefit and bless others. My task at hand won’t allow me to waste my time comparing and measuring my work against the work of others. Working to make my vision a reality will keep my eyes laser-focused and guard my ears from the voices of the nay-sayers. I know exactly whose I am and exactly what He says about me. I know that He has a great work for me to do and I want to spend my year making it happen.
When the gossipers gossip and the critics criticize and my own inner-voice whispers doubt, discouragement, and fear I will simply follow Nehemiah’s lead: “I am doing a great work, and I cannot come down.”
Let 2018 be the year I began the brave work of building the future that was intended for me all along.