As I do every year, I have been thinking upon my word for 2023 these last few weeks. As far as I can tell, I started doing this “word of the year” thing back in 2014. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore. Instead, I seek out one word that embodies what the Lord wants me to focus on for the entire year ahead.
It plays out in different ways throughout the year. For example, my word for 2022 was “traverse: to go over, around or through.” It was an indication that hard things would come my way for the year, and that I was to be prepared to traverse them. But it was also a mindset – that I would need to determine if each obstacle I faced was something I was already prepared to step right over, something I needed to avoid and go around during this season of my life, or something I needed to go through in order to find personal growth.
Last year, the word came to me in concept first, and I talked through it with a couple of friends who saw that what I was feeling sounded like traverse. Sometimes the word just comes to me in prayer. For 2023, the word came to me in a moment when I wasn’t even actively hunting, but had just left myself open to what might cross my path. During a sermon a couple of weeks before Christmas, one of our church pastors was speaking on two aspects of the Christmas season: Hope and Peace. As he walked through hope, including its original meanings, I was intrigued and wondering if that may be my word for the year (or rather, Yakhal/Qavah – the original Hebrew and Greek meanings “to wait with expectation”).
But then he started on the subject of peace and said something profound that slapped me clean in the face:
In that moment, I knew this is what God had for me. So I started digging. Peace/peaceful and other various forms of the word occur in the Bible as “Shalom” approximately 160 times. But Shalom in the original Hebrew (a noun) means more than that: completeness, soundness, welfare (safety), peace (Shalom used as welfare/well/wellbeing is in the Bible 36 times). The root of Shalom is Shalem/Shalam – a verb that means to be complete, sound (safe), to make restitution. In the Greek (New Testament), the word is eiréné, a noun that means “peace, quietness, rest.”
And the peace [eiréné] of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7 In peace [shalom] I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, keep me safe. Psalm 4:8 You will keep in perfect peace [shalom] those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Isaiah 26:3
I have been broken most of my life. Over the last three years, I’ve worked very hard toward finding my voice, trusting, fully being myself, seeking truth, and learning to correctly grieve the multitude of losses I’ve experienced. Those changes in me (or, rather, that finding of my true self) have resulted in some very hurtful encounters, new wounds, and new brokenness.
People don’t like change, and they sometimes don’t understand who I’ve become. They don’t like that I want to talk things through and get to the root of hurt feelings (I’ve found that most people cannot handle fully allowing that open, vulnerable conversation that unmasks their pain, especially if it has to do with the person they’re talking to, while I want to share those things so we can strengthen our relationship together). They don’t like that I’m self reflective and want to strive for better, that some of my beliefs have changed, that I’m direct and willing to say the hard stuff (though I do always strive to with love and grace). Meanwhile, this is me finding my true self (far too late in life it seems).
So I am choosing Shalom in 2023. I am making my wellbeing a priority. One way this will play out is in finding structure that has always been lacking in my life. I am pretty convinced I have Attention Deficit Disorder. Because of this, my schedule is often chaotic, trying to fit meetings and deadlines into nooks and crannies, overloading myself because I don’t realize how much I’ve put on my calendar until I hit a wall after going, going, going. Meanwhile, there are a thousand things on my various to-do lists that never get done because there’s never time to do them. So I am working toward scheduling time for specific tasks each week, including limiting what days of the week I will schedule meetings and photo shoots, as well as editing time, so that I can finally reach goals I’ve been striving for without it hindering my mental wellbeing and adding more stress.
It also means I will no longer allow anyone in my life to be hateful toward me, lashing out because they need a punching bag or don’t know how to adequately convey their hurt feelings, but will defend that I deserve to be treated with kindness and respect, even when someone is upset with me. I have learned to set boundaries in the last couple of years, but have left room for some people to play with those boundaries. I have allowed others to tell me I’m not good enough, say hateful things to me, and have questioned my own sanity in the process (“Could I actually be who they say I am? Have I worked so hard to better myself only to completely miss the mark? Am I entirely oblivious to the terrible person I really am?”).
In 2023 and beyond, however, I will be complete in who I am, and find Shalom when others have a problem with it, counting that as an opportunity to remove toxicity from my life that is draining me of the peace I so rightly deserve. Finding my true self and who I want to be also means determining the kind of people I want to surround myself with in order to be the best me. My ministry requires me to pour into others every single day, often without reciprocation. And that is fine – that is what I’m called to do. But I will no longer allow the relationships I have outside of that calling to be one-sided. I have no more room in my life for always being the bearer of burdens with those that should be sharing the load. The welfare and safety of my heart requires that those closest to me have a desire to guard my heart too.
Shalom means making sound choices for my personal wellbeing so that I can find completeness and live in a state of peace. I’ve lived so much of my life in a state of brokenness. It’s time for me to be whole – to find a state of eiréné – quietness and rest.
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