I am in the anti-resolution camp. I was trying to figure out why. Maybe it’s because I am too pessimistic and cynical. Maybe it’s because life has seemed so out of my control in the past few years. Maybe it’s because my failure meter is too high – I already know I won’t meet up to my standards this year, why set up something to specifically remind myself of how I don’t measure up? I understand the purpose of resolutions is to actually meet them, but how often does that truly happen?
Although I don’t make resolutions, the past few years I have started doing one word for the year. This has its own hashtag #OneWord365 so you know it is a real thing. The idea is to choose a word that you want the year to encapsulate or that you want to focus on.
I thought about my word last January. I thought of choosing Light. I was thinking a lot about light, being so surrounded by darkness, but it seemed too abstract. I thought about Restore. I knew we needed restoration and I thought that we had passed the worst part of depression and sickness and surely things would start looking up after the new year.
Then I spent most of January and February completing our “world hospital tour.” The flu in Cambodia, a terrible stomach bug in Thailand, another stomach bug in Myanmar. When we finally had a month of health, I realized that despite the relief antidepressants had brought, I was still having trouble completing simple daily tasks. We took a trip to Beijing so I could get a few days of counseling, because that kind of help is 500 miles away. Then we came back and I got pneumonia and the semester ended in a fog of sickness that reached ridiculous proportions.
So I forgot about choosing a word for the year. I’m glad I didn’t choose a word last January because once again the year has not turned out at all like I would have planned or hoped. This was not a year of restoration, more of demolition. Although I have realized that the mess of tearing down is often the first step of building up something new.
But now, five days before the end of the year, I would like to choose my word for 2017. The timing seems entirely appropriate for the year it has been. Despite the ridiculousness and difficulty of the past year, as I look back I realize it hasn’t been terrible.
It’s funny that I would think this because I also feel that most things have not gone well this year. Way too much pneumonia and asthma and flu. Crappy discipline, too much anger, and out of control children. Little contact with students and sometimes with the outside world in general. Not enough exercise and too much stress eating. Pretty much nothing that would be described as success.
The other day I got an email from a wise friend who understands. She said, “There is a lot that I don't know about my identity right now, but I do know that I have been faithful... And that is what the Lord asks of us…"
And despite all the failings, all that was out of our control and didn’t go how we wanted, this is what I see looking back on this year. We have been faithful.
We stayed when things were hard and we were just trying to keep everyone alive another day, trusting that God would care for us and provide what we needed. And he did – not at all in the way I would have asked for it. We sought help when we needed it. We have made the difficult decision to uproot our family for a year for the sake of our health and well-being, trusting that God will work out all the overwhelming details - details like where we will live and work in America and where we will live and work when we come back.
More than that, God has been faithful. He has sustained us when I wasn’t sure I could carry on. In faithfulness he afflicted us, even when it didn’t make a lot of sense at the time. In faithfulness he has torn down the old and dying things inside us to prepare a way for something new. In faithfulness, he has given us more of himself – his strength, his consolation, his grace – when we had nothing left in ourselves.
Sometimes I think we have been faithful because we had to rely on God. I feel like Peter when he said, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life.” It’s not that I have great faith. I don’t even feel like a very good Christian sometimes. But I don't know how to live without God. His story is so wrapped up in me and in this past year, I couldn’t begin to unravel it. I couldn’t tell you where the ordinary ended and the sacred began. It seems that more often than not, the terrible and the beautiful danced hand in hand.
So my word for the year is Faithful. When I look back, I see a LOT of sickness, a lot of trials, a lot of surviving. But over it all I see that we stayed faithful to the One who was faithful to us. Oh, we have not been successful, but we have been faithful. And I think, actually, that has been enough.