i've been wounded and wearied by careless words, and i've hurt too many with mine. i've drunk deeply from the refreshment that an encouraging word can bring. words have tremendous power, which is why gender-inclusive language, abstaining from using "gay," "ghetto," and "retarded" as pejorative slang, and saying "child with autism" instead of "autistic child" are not at all about being politically correct but rather acknowledging the power of words to both communicate and create reality.
consider this: God spoke the universe into existence. his words called forth life and matter out of nothing! when john's gospel introduces Jesus, he is called the Word: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)
first century readers would have recognized that by calling Jesus the Word, john is equating Jesus with God, the Creator. john is clear that Jesus is no mere rabbi; God is doing a radical new thing in Christ: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
back in the garden, adam and eve walked with God, but then sin broke their fellowship with one another and with God. john's gospel announces that, amazingly, God the Word is once again making his home among people. the need for a priestly mediator between a sinful people and a holy God is coming to an end, because the Word will again be about the work of creation--recreating hearts, relationships, and communities so broken and distorted by sin.
potentially creative and redemptive power lives within words, and recognizing this, the word i'd like to shape my year around is "shalom," the hebrew word for peace. not merely peace as in the absence of war or tension, the shalom of God embodies wholeness, restoration, and the making right of all things. [the idea of shalom reminds me much of the line in the musical, RENT: "the opposite of war isn't peace, it's creation!"]
shalom can be found independent of the day's stresses and worries, because it rests in the knowledge that God is sovereign, God is good, and God is at work. all too often, i allow myself to be tossed in the turbulent waves emotion, discontent that life isn't meeting my every selfish desire and expectation. i know that shalom, like joy, is not based on circumstances, and can be found entirely independent of how much sleep i've had or how lonely or loved i am feeling.
because Jesus is the Word, i know that in choosing the word "shalom" to guide my steps in this new year, i am not alone in my striving, thus setting myself up for disappointment. philippians 2:12-13 instructs, "continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." it is my desire to consciously allow God to work in me and through me, transforming me by his grace (not my effort) into the woman he created me to be.
i want to allow God the space to develop shalom in my life by growing in the disciplines of prayer, meditation, and spending time in the Word. (Lord, forgive me for filling my days with words and noise, while neglecting your life-giving Word in scripture and presence in silence.) i know that shalom is not something i can cultivate through willpower; it is gained by obedience to God, service to others, and surrender of my selfish strivings and need for things to center around me.
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. (Isaiah 26:3)
This is what the LORD says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: "I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea. (Isaiah 48:17-18).may God's great shalom guard our hearts, encourage our spirits, and guide our feet as we walk in his ways this year.
May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21)