Last year, I wrote a blog post about how twenty-eighteen was going to be the relationship year. I had never picked a word that I wanted to define my new year – something that I wanted to remember, focus on and pursue. But at the start of last year, relationships became of utmost value to me, and I knew I wanted to pursue what they meant in all their complexity and beauty.
And that’s what I did. Every month brought a different focus and lessons connected to what relationships involved. And I learned things I never expected.
To be clear, I’m not a huge fan of “mantras,” so please don’t be deceived into thinking that’s what I mean by choosing a word for the year. Words alone can’t change us just by repeating them or thinking about them intently. Only God can bring real change in our hearts, so above all, we have to be pursuing Him and asking Him to change us in the areas we desire.
But after years of making page-long New Year’s goals, it was a little refreshing to pick only one thing that I wanted to focus on improving throughout the year. It was easy to remember, and easy to pull various aspects of it out each month that I wanted to work on.
So as this year came to a close, I began thinking about what the word would be for next year. Not that I would be abandoning relationships, but I wanted to have a fresh focus for twenty-nineteen which might even encompass relationships.
And the word came to me naturally as I approached my thirty-first birthday.
What does it look like to live a faithful life? And what does it mean to be faithful, even when it’s boring, routine, or downright hard? What does it mean to be intentionally faithful to your calling, instead of allowing the days to slip by in a robotic haze?
On the last Sunday of 2018, one of our pastors preached on Luke 2:40-52, and verse 52 particularly stuck out:
“And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”
Our pastor made the point that Jesus lived most of his life in obscurity – He knew what it was like to live a quiet, ordinary, mundane life while growing in wisdom faithfully the whole time. Even though He was God in human form, His hands still grew rough with carpenter’s work, He spent time in a small village, and He submitted Himself to human parents.
And as I think about my own life, I realize that most of it is quiet and ordinary – but in that quiet and ordinary, I still have to challenge myself to be faithful to the tasks that God has called me to.
Then on the first of the year, I read Exodus 36, a detailed description of the making of the tabernacle. And as I did, these words came to mind with what they were doing –
Diligence. Detail. Depth. Beauty.
These master craftsmen were committed to their craft because the God of the universe deserved no less than their best. They developed their skills faithfully so that the glory of God could better be put on display. Detail, depth, and beauty are not an accident – they are a result of careful, committed diligence to a craft or a task, which is exactly what these artisans of the Old Testament were doing.
And it was such a challenge to me as I thought of how I can get lazy or apathetic toward my writing or my teaching or my ministry. I figure that I can cruise forward on autopilot since I’ve figured out “what works.” But while I’m staying stagnant at the level I’ve achieved so far, I’m not growing and I’m not giving of my very best. I need to challenge myself to grow in detail and depth, because this is where the glory of God shines brilliantly.
So what are those areas of faithfulness that I want to pursue this year?
Gifting. Ministry. Health
Gifting – I want to be faithful in developing my skills in theater, teaching, and writing, and to challenge myself so that I can grow.
Ministry – whether at church, school, or CYT, I want to be faithful in developing relationships and in sharing Christ to others, even as I pursue my own growth in spiritual wisdom and maturity.
Health – I can’t do the others if I’m not healthy. Therefore, I want to take slow steps (because I’ve always failed at major overhauls in the past) to become consistently healthy in diet, sleep, and exercise.
And besides all of those, I want to take joy in the daily faithfulness – the ins and outs of cleaning the house, grading papers, greeting my students every day, and loving the people in my life. These can be the parts of life that feel dull, that we want to skip over, or that we grow cranky over. But I don’t want to overlook them, trying to get to the “life” that’s past them.
This is “life.” In all of its mundane routine – a thousand dishes pulled out of the dishwasher, a hundred end-of-the-day hugs, a million blinks of our eyes, and dozens of showers taken – these are the things to not ignore in our anxious hurry to get to weekends, summers, or big trips. And as we stay committed to faithfulness, these “ordinary” things start growing in their beauty and depth, until we begin seeing the glory of God everywhere we look.
So I pray for a deeper faithfulness – a stronger understanding of it – and a greater love for my Maker through all the 365 days of 2019.
He deserves my faithfulness because He has been forever faithful to me.