Sunday, January 18, 2015

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Friday, January 2, 2015

Word-of-the-Year 2015: REST

I’ve known for a couple of weeks what my word-of-the-year needed to be about but actually landing on the precise word has been difficult. The idea I wanted to convey with this linguistic focal point for the year was the attitude of open-handed trust in God; a letting go of striving, willfulness, driveness as I surrendered all outcomes of my life and work to God. I couldn’t quite land on a word until I processed it with my spiritual director and he suggested the word “rest.”

My immediate reaction when I heard the word “rest” was one of dread and resistance. That kind of response is often a sign of exactly where I need to pay attention and open myself more fully to God. In the world of spiritual direction, we understand that interior resistance, the reaction of discomfort and stubbornness, is often fertile ground for the work of the Spirit. I laughed out loud when Jim presented “rest” as a word to prayerfully consider, noting my resistance and admitting that I wished I hadn’t asked for his help.

Why rest? I had really wanted a word that captured the idea of planting and waiting for harvest; initiating and leaving the results to God. The truth is planting and initiating are native to my personality. I am a doer, goal-setter, hard worker and perseverer.  What I struggle most with is living open-handedly toward the outcome of my work and initiative. I want to get in there and help God out; control the process or assist God in the work and results. Resting is exactly the posture I need to cultivate.

For me to choose this word rest is not to suggest that this next year will be a year-long holiday. Rather, I’m eager for this word to become my interior posture of “holy indifference,” a phrase used by St. Ignatius to describe an attitude where I leave all consequences of my life to God and trust the Faithfull One with the harvest. Here’s a parable of Jesus, in my own paraphrase, that captures the way in which I hope to live this out. 

“Here is what the kingdom of God is like: a woman who throws seeds onto the earth. Day and night, as she works and as she rests, the seeds sprout and climb out into the light, even though she doesn’t understand how it works.  It’s as though the soil itself produced the grain somehow—from a sprouted stalk to ripened fruit.  But however it happens, when she sees that the grain has grown and ripened, she gets her sickle and begins to cut it because the harvest has come.” (The Voice) Mark 4:26-29

The sower in this case does what she can, planting and then resting, trusting the nature of soil, sun, rain and atmosphere to do its generative work. This next year as my new book Starting Something New: Spiritual Direction for Your God-given Dream is released and I begin a tour of retreats on the book, I have clear instructions from God that I am to “rest” in him and resist the temptation to strive for results. Even as I pray the word “rest,” it resonates deeply and with rightness in me in terms of where I am these days and where God is shaping me. 

How about you? Have you found the word for 2015 that could be your North Star? A word that will help navigate what God is inviting you to be, do or grow toward? Happy New Year as you orient yourself to that star and set sail into this new year!