Once a week, I wake up extra early to meet with a couple of my best friends at our favorite coffee spot to catch up, read a psalm and pray over each other's lives. During one of our mornings in January, my friend Jill shared that her and her husband had chosen a word to look to as a sort of "theme" for 2014, then challenged us to do the same. I realized I'd done this in 2012, loved it, then totally forgot about. That year, I'd chosen "integrity" which seemed like an obvious choice at the time because I had just finished reading Quitter and been convicted that I was really awesome at beginning things and a terrible at finishing them. I wanted to see my ideas through and finish well in 2012. Looking back at that year, I'm amazed at how God used that word as a reminder that challenged and pushed me through boat loads of resistance. I ended up moving to Nashville, securing my first full-time job, starting the continued journey of Common Table and digging roots with friendships that've stuck. I overcame a lot in 2012.
So, the idea of picking a word for 2014 got me pumped. For like, 15 minutes. Then I realized, uh-oh God, I have big dreams for 2014. This means I should probably pick a word that pushes me into new and uncomfortable places.. OR I could pick something easy like "peace" and tell my friends I just really want to chill out more in 2014, you know, live easy, rest in the Spirit, watch more Netflix TV series. THEN I won't have any accountability/expectations when I start chasing things..
That latter plan sounded great until I realized I was just being a total wimp. So what if instead, I really start to believe God has plans to do life-changing, kickass stuff in my life this next year? What if I really believe that if I start faithfully rising up in what's been put in my heart, that he will be faithful in it? What if I really believe this next year isn't even about me or the dreams I have at all, but instead about trusting God and rising to the occasions set before me in order to give Him more glory? Those were the right questions to ask that consequently, brought me to a much better/scarier word:
Often times when you see the word arise in the bible, especially in the Psalms, it's written as a way of inviting God into our fears and distress, asking him to make himself known before us.
"Arise, O Lord; let not man prevail: let the heathen be judged in thy sight."
- Psalm 9:19
In a broader look at how it's written through the bible, with the above point folding into this, it is almost always a call to action so that we might witness more of God's goodness and power. In the more historic translations of the bible, we find Jesus saying it often when addressing the people he heals, such as the paralyzed man in Matthew 9:
"Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. And he arose, and departed to his house. But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men."
- Matthew 9:6-8
So when I think about arise as the word I'm choosing for 2014, I think about Jesus asking me to not only invite him into the tasks, opportunities and dreams that are before me, but to act on them with great confidence and intention that His love and glory will be made more known. It is an ancient word that's giving me a new prayer.
"Arise, O Lord, in my city, workplace and lives of my friends. Help me to arise in your great love for me, so that I may do great work for your glory."
If you're feeling like it's too late to set goals or pick a word for 2014, I'm reminding you that it's never really too late to begin anything. I tell myself this every February when I'm just finally sitting down to reflect on the previous year and dream about the next ten months. And if New Year's resolutions aren't your thing, I think this is a wonderful alternative. I've found, for me, a mentality over a set of rigid check-off items is much more successful for my growth, because when it comes down to it, when we focus on changing the way we think, our lives begin to change as well. May we all arise to what 2014 holds for us.