Some of what I have been reading lately is about choosing a word to focus the coming year. As the year unfolds, the selected word becomes a theme for action, for meditation, for spiritual growth.
I don’t know how I’d choose.
Peace? Unity? Courage? Love?
How about Radical? That word seems trendy and edgy and designed to garner attention.
Joy? Who doesn’t need more joy invited into their life, and wading deeply into the abiding joy of God is always an adventure.
Now there’s an exciting one: Adventure! The very sound of it has me thinking of an Indiana Jones type of year, wrestling spiritual demons into submission, moving myself into new circles of friends and work, taking risks to share the gospel.
But wait…the Spirit is nudging me a bit here…
How about Work? Now there’s a word that does not offer up any enticement to someone looking for a Spirit-filled year of growth and excitement. In the library of shelves weighed down with the potential of words, all lined up with promise and anticipation, Work is somewhat shoved toward the back. Its spine is dusty, and it leans dejectedly upon its neighbor, Works– a word that hasn’t been slid from the shelf in a very long time. In fact, the other words have been carefully arranged to almost obscure that one’s title from view, as though to ensure that it is passed over. It used to be selected frequently. In fact, so frequently that multiple copies were kept and a waiting list made. There arose a problem when the same people kept taking them out, time after time. Arguments would ensue at the circulation desk when patrons would refuse to take out its companion volume because the F section was too far away and Faith was harder to understand, requiring more effort and time.
But I digress.
Poor Work suffers from guilt by association. Next to the pariah of Works, all for a singular s, Work gets an averted glance as well. It doesn’t sound…inspiring…or easy. It sounds, well, like work.
Sometimes the best books in the library are the ones that have the homeliest covers, the ones that have been around a long time. These are the ones that are shoved in the back and are decorated with a fine layer of dust. Within the old-fashioned mortar boards, sprinkled on the yellowed pages, are the most intricate of stories. Rich with detail, and less about splash and trend and popular themes, these stories build slowly, steadily, poetically, and wrap themselves around readers’ hearts. They pull you into ancient places and times. And leave you both satisfied and wanting more.
And on the seventh day God finished His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all His work from which He had done in creation. Genesis 2:2-3 RSV
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. Genesis 2:15 RSV
Till it. Work it. Dress it. The Complete Jewish Bible says “to cultivate and care for it.”
Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:12,13.
Three times in that verse that word appears.
Work. Good enough for Adonai to participate in fully. Good enough for Adam to be gifted by our Creator with the life purpose of work, let alone a year’s focus. Work. A command and critical component to our salvation.
But notice, there’s Someone there alongside us as we work. While we work with a seriousness of task and respect for its importance, God is already up before dawn, tinkering, toiling, and kneading the dough of our hearts. He’s shifting and repairing and gifting—and He invites us to…EXPECTS us… to join Him in the work He’s already begun.
Joy, Peace, and Adventure are all worthy themes–all avenues of blessing and growth. But did you notice? They’re all nouns. Radical—well, that’s an adjective, a description of a life attitude. Again, a worthy heart lens to take up, but for a moment, let’s consider Work. It’s a verb. A call to action. An action modeled for us by Jehovah Himself and His Son. An action that is a partnership. A partnership in the care and cultivation of our hearts.
There’s more to this, I know, but for now I am pondering Work.
I am pondering how I will cultivate and care for my salvation, the gift I have received from my Holy and generous God.