Present is my “word” for 2020.
I hesitated to even declare a word over my year because, frankly, God will do whatever He wants. I might make my word “quiet” and He’ll crank up the volume. I might make my word “joy” and be met by the deepest depression of my lifetime. It’s true. Regardless of our plans, His will surely will prevail.
For me, while I’ve chosen words over the past few years (like abundance 2018 and trust 2019) is because they heighten my awareness to what I believe He is already speaking over me in a particular season. In the first few days of January, I still didn’t know if I would choose a word for the year. But God practically broke into the things I was watching, reading, and listening to and highlighted everything that had to do with the act of presence. Choosing a word for the year isn’t declaring everything He will do, because His Word says we can’t even imagine all the good and glory He’s got around the corner. But, every single tool we find that opens us up towards the movement of the Spirit is a worthwhile pursuit.
Small steps in the right direction: Not caring about my house or my appearance being perfect as long as my heart is available to serve (cleaning, working, homework, housekeeping) and love (give a friend encouragement, give someone a hand in the studio, drop what I’m doing for an hour if someone needs me, etc.). My ceramics professor said to us nearly every week this past fall semester, “PERFECTION IS AN ILLUSION.”
He didn’t tell us this to keep us from trying our best. He told us this on a regular basis, because we found ourselves stuck because what we wanted just wasn’t attainable. Our desire for perfection wasn’t making us better artists, it was actually bringing our work to a defeated pause. To a bunch of struggling art students, this phrase was like water on a Kansan August day. We were worn out from the expectations of our other professors, society, and – ourselves. This serves as a reminder for me in my work and every other area that perfect isn’t the goal. The need for perfection will get me to a tidier life, but not a kingdom-building one. The act of presence will make me give my best in the moment and leave the results to God. What matters isn’t that my house looks good, I get all As, or that I look like a Pinterest ad (although those things might coincide with my goals at times), what matters is that my life is open to the blessings of God and to bless others. And that just won’t happen if I’m mad about clutter or broken out skin or a failing grade, as fickle as those things may seem.
Other tangible ideas I’m working towards: Looking people in the eye, at least more than I can say I do now. Reading more books. Making time for fun outside and within school. Taking time to revel in awe at God and His Word. Writing, at home and in coffee shops about the good, the bad, and the ugly instead of dusting it under the rug. Being 95% “where my feet are”. (Of course, a woman’s brain is hard to untangle into one geographical location – but what would happen if we gave as much as we could in the room or discussion group or even the Instagram DMs we were in? And then moved to the next “thing” with the same amount of attention?) By the end of this year, I’m sure I’ll have many other ideas as I’ve committed many months to the same idea.
“Present is living with your feet firmly grounded in reality, pale and uncertain as it may seem. Present is choosing to believe that your own life is worth investing deeply in, instead of waiting for some rare miracle or fairytale. Present means we understand that the here and now is sacred, sacramental, threaded through with divinity even in its plainness. Especially in its plainness.” — Shauna Niequist, Present Over Perfect
Being present is simply the first step into what’s best for me in serving Christ and those around me. If I’m present, I’ll here His whispers quicker. If I’m present, I’ll count gifts consistently, seeing the ways in which He is constantly at work. If I’m present, life’s woes will be a lot more painful – but I won’t just ignore them, but experience God’s strength within them.
We live in a world that will take any chance it can get to numb away their lives, good or bad. If only we can drink, smoke, or buy more than enough – then we will feel relief from our days. If only we could have lots of sex and make a lot more money – then we will feel success. If I live vicariously through someone else’s bravery, I won’t have to listen to my own dreams. If I can keep all things tidy – myself, my house, my kids – then everyone will think I’m okay.
Choosing to be in the present is something that the evil one is offended by. He loves when we dwell on our past regrets and fret about the future. Oh, and he LOVES good intentions for *someday*. But he knows he will lose when believers stand up and show up to their one God-given life.
The enemy delights in this future faith, for he knows it is powerless to accomplish any practical results. But he trembles and flees when the soul of the believer dates to claim a present deliverance, and to reckon itself now to be free from his power. . . Just as much as He [Christ!] came to deliver you from future punishment did He also come to deliver you from present bondage. — Hannah Whitall Smith
By being present, I’ll be more awake to all the way’s He is moving. Whether it’s painful, exhilarating, or anywhere in between – wouldn’t we all prefer to say that we were awake to our own life? That we soaked up everything we could to make us better humans, His glory magnified on the earth, and our brother and sisters around us more loved?
We should live in the present where love can touch us. — Henri J. M. Nouwen
Being present is about being awake to it all. God is all powerful, but He doesn’t force us to listen. By making mindful choices to listen, to behold, to look up more often – we are guaranteed to be touched by love. And that love will flow through us in more powerful ways than when we were distracted by perfection.
I’d love to know… What’s your word for the year and why?