Around this time every year, we make resolutions (and frankly, by the time this is posted a good number will already have been abandoned). Often, we opt for improvement in exercise, diet, or health habits. Other times, we take the path of “giving up”– drinking, smoking, coffee, television, social media, fill-in your “drug” of choice.
Not to say that anything is wrong with any of these choices, but can we challenge ourselves to go deeper? More meaningful?
In 2016, I “stole” an idea from my friend, Jane, to choose a word (or a short phrase) on which to focus my intent for the year. In 2016 – I chose “faith.” My “faith” muscle never feels tone enough. It always feels like it could use more time in the “gym.” In 2017, I chose “Me Too.” (See last week’s blog ) To be honest, I’ve drug my feet at this nudging. I don’t want to share my stories/testimony. I just want to sit back and live my life quietly. Word of advice – don’t fight the Big Guy on these things. He’s gonna win. It’s easier just to go with his plan.
So, what will it be for 2018? This year is unique. The last time that I faced a year without Brooke being a physical part of it was 1997. In 1998, we learned that she was on her way and in 1999, she arrived forever making her mark on our lives. If you are facing an “unique” year due to your own struggles, you probably don’t have too much focus in the tank. Your only intent may be to ride out this year and the next and the next.
Even in a season of pain, we can challenge ourselves to do more than just exist. Focusing our intention over the course of time can help us endure whatever losses we are facing. (Disclaimer: I’m not a counselor or psychologist. I have no special training other than what the school of hard-knocks has afforded me.)
“I’m too deep in my pain to even think of a ‘word,’” you say. I hear ya. Depending on where we are in our journeys – even a word can feel overwhelming. Words are powerful – even just one. The damage done when we focus our intentions on the wrong words – guilt, shame, anger, blame – is devastating and long lasting. So, what would happen if for just one year (one day at a time), we chose to focus on a word that might bring relief? What would happen if we tapped into the positive power of words?
What does it mean exactly to “focus your intention” on one word? It means being open to the many definitions of your chosen intention. It means actively seeking out instances where the word is mentioned in literature, poetry, quotes, or the Bible. It’s scratching beyond the surface to explore the many nuances of your word. Journal about the word. Notice when it pops us in articles, on television, in your Facebook feed.
Regardless of where you are currently, here’s a leg up on some positive thoughts that can help to face 2018 with intention:
“Joy lies in the fight, in the attempt, in the suffering involved, not in the victory itself.” – Mahatma Ghandi
Joy is an inner peace that steadies us as we travel. Joy can become shrouded when grief and loss smother our souls. Literally stealing our very breath. The victory doesn’t come in driving out grief. Rather, the victory comes in fighting to breath when the will isn’t there. It’s in adapting to the lack of oxygen the way that mountain climbers condition their bodies to function at high altitude where there isn’t enough air to feed all of their needs.
Joy comes in the morning – after a night of weeping – when the dark fades into light. Psalm 30:5 Like spending time at increasing heights is the climber’s way to acclimate to thin air, the night is the soul’s time to acclimate to change. When the night ends, the morning light will illuminate the joy that awaits (the joy that has been there all along).
Spending some time mining the depths of “joy” may help rub away the sleep from your soul and bring about the dawn.
While “joy” may come in the morning, “hope” is what keeps us focused on the end goal – knowing that one morning will be like no other. No tears. No pain. No death. “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4. “Hope” is a marathon not a sprint.
One way of defining “Hope” is “to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence.” When your heart, soul, or life is broken, you just want the “night” to end. The desires are universal and infinite. Freedom from physical pain. Freedom from emotional pain. Release from sorrow. The “reasonable confidence” that dawn breaks comes from receiving God’s promise of no more pain.
Hope is knowing that the sun will rise even when the “hands” of your soul are pointing at midnight. How do we stop hitting “snooze” and open our souls to the dawn? Maybe a year of exploring the abundant angles of “hope” can crack the blinds allowing the morning sun to warm a spot on your broken heart?
Maybe you are stuck at “midnight” and need more time in the “night.” Maybe “joy” and “hope” are cloudy on the horizon. Maybe you still need time to restore.
“Restore” means to bring back into existence; to reestablish; or to bring back to a state of health, soundness, or vigor. Like a night of sleep restores our bodies and minds – a “night” of grieving a loss can restore our souls. However – just as the night ends and we must pull ourselves out of bed, we must face our grief in the light of day.
“The work of restoration cannot begin until a problem is fully faced.” Dan B. Allender
Deep pain distills life to its essence. The battered soul simply has no energy to devote to the meaningless. While this may be the silver lining in the “valley of the shadow of death,” we cannot exist in the shadow forever. We must find our way out of the valley inching our way toward the summit.
Jesus cried to Lazarus after four days, “Come out!” John 11:43 And, Lazarus arose from the dead. The actual dead; not merely feeling like he had died. We may feel dead but we are still alive. When the time comes for our quasi-death to end, Jesus is there crying out, “Come out!” He’s beckoning us out of the night and into the dawn.
Can 2018 be the year that we are restored? Is 2018 the year to come back into existence? Will this be the year that we face fully whatever struggle is wrecking our health and siphoning off our vigor?
Regardless of how you choose to move through 2018 – May the comfort of God’s promises drown out Satan’s lies. May you laugh, love, remember, and make new memories. May you be blessed with a joyful, hopeful, and restoring new year.
Can you think of other one-word intentions that might be helpful when hope seems lost? Please share your thoughts in the comments!