I’ve participated in the #oneword365 project for a couple of years now. It’s a pretty simple exercise; you prayerfully pick a word that might help define the year, and then allow it to lead you into new growth in the year ahead. It works. In 2017, I was continually reminded that if things weren’t as I hoped, it was because my story was still being written, with all the characters, events, highs and lows a story arc can hold. In 2018, I looked for ways that God was working in the details and hoped to see the fruit of His labor, and mine too. I’ve had glimpses of clarity and understanding, and I’ve felt myself grow, but it’s been a hard stretch.
As anyone who reads my words knows, it’s been a time of what I call “deep water”, which simply means a lack of control, a time in which God was teaching me dependence on Him alone. I’ve learned a lot, learned to hope and to float and to rest and to rage less and rail less against what “should be” but isn’t. Still, I have my moments, and as this year draws to a close, I find myself tired. I’m not sure I’ve seen all of the blooming and fruit I hoped I would, at least not in the ways I’ve thought. Here in these late December days, I want to gather in all of the light and goodness and there is so much of that, but instead I find myself weary and depleted. No, this year’s story is not yet complete, and there are things still to see, but mostly I just want to wrap myself up in blankets and wait it out.
It’s not the best mindset from which to choose a new word for a new year, and I know it. Strangely and luckily, the word has already chosen me.
I knew it the minute it came across my view for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve seen it again a few times since with the same feeling in my spirit, that same lightening that I know means “pay attention”. The word is cultivate, and the reality of that word scares me more than anything because it seems to indicate more labor, more trial, more work, in a time when I have very little to give. Still, the word was insistent and I needed to try it on and wear it around until it fit.
Doing that means research and word study and prayer, and I did all of that with gritted teeth, honestly resentful that God would call me to dig even deeper, experience even more the violence of pruning, plant even more, die to myself even more as a seed does before it grows and blooms.
It was in an etymological study on Genesis that I found the heaviness lifting. The researcher was looking at the word ‘tend’ from Genesis 2:15:
Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden
to tend and keep it.
The researcher made the case that the Hebrew word we translate as ‘tend’ is closest to ‘cultivate’, which in this case means ‘to put through a finishing process’, ‘to foster the growth of’ or ‘to further or encourage’. And it caused me to remember: I’m not the gardener. I’m the plant.
Yes, Adam and Eve had work to do in the Garden of Eden but first, they were themselves planted there. They had a small bit of land to tend, but they weren’t alone. They were being raised, nurtured, loved, and cultivated as they went, and so am I.
So maybe this year I’ll be put through a finishing process of some kind, or fostered, or encouraged, or furthered. It all sounds awesome, to be honest, to just be lovingly doted on as I reach for the sun. The Latin root ‘cult’ means to grow and maybe that’s all I need to do, with no pressure on me after all. I’m tired and spent but the fruit of my life is not my own, but rather what God chooses to grow in me. And it always was. May God be glorified in my life in this coming year as I rest in Him, letting Him do the work and make things grow. May there be light and warmth and gentle rain and flowers and fruit, far beyond anything I could have asked or imagined (Ephesians 3:20). I’m ready, God, let it be, Amen.
Friends, what’s your word for the year ahead? I would love to know, so send me a message or leave it in the comments. Blessings to you and yours in 2019.