More and more people seem to be exchanging the idea of a New Year’s resolution for a word that sums up a plan or goal for their year to come. Words like Enough, Abundance, Whole, and even Nope have been shared on friends’ and acquaintances' social media pages. While I resolved to abandon New Year's resolutions years ago, I had yet to embrace choosing a word to identify with and focus on for the year to come. I could blame it on indecisiveness, or bucking a trend, but if I’m honest with myself, it has more to do with the exhaustion I always feel around that time of year.
Looking back to when January 2019 began, I felt burned out. Instead of looking toward new and exciting opportunities ahead, I was drained from all of the times in prior months that I had said yes when I should have said no. As the new year unfolded, my body gave out, and colds and the flu consumed me for seven agonizing weeks. My body was forcing me to say no; it was forcing me to pay attention to myself and my needs--something that has never come easily for me.
If I could sum up my last year with a single word, it would be the word LISTEN. Last year, I began a journey through counselling on learning how to better listen to myself and my body. I began to dig deeply into my needs, and realized that I had been ignoring many of them in favour of helping others. In the process of talking about my needs, I learned that meeting everyone else’s needs was not the same as meeting my own--even though at the time it felt like it. (Enneagram 2, anyone?!)
I also began to listen to my emotional needs. I have been learning that I am not very good at asking for what I need, especially at an emotional level. I tend to be introspective, but not allow others into that quiet, often dark space. I’ve been listening more to what my emotions are telling me, and then opening up with my husband and others close to me about what I’m feeling, and what I need.
Most importantly, I started listening more intentionally to God speaking to me through the power of the Holy Spirit. I believe that the Bible is God’s Word spoken to us, but I also believe that God, through the Holy Spirit, speaks to us in a way I’ve learned to call listening prayer. The intimacy and joy I have experienced through listening prayer is a powerful testimony to a two way relationship with God--receiving from Him, as well as pouring out to Him.
As 2019 progressed, my burdens, emotional, physical, and spiritual, became lighter. I felt joy when months earlier I had felt heavy and depleted. Listening to my physical body, my emotions, and God my Father gave me a new outlook for the last half of the year. My incredible counsellor, a prayerful mentor, a supportive husband, patient friends and a Faithful God have all been instrumental in assisting me on this journey.
Early in December, I received an email from a friend about the idea of choosing a word for the new year--but with a twist. Instead of me choosing the word, I would invite Jesus, by the power of His Holy Spirit, to give me a word. In the midst of the bustle of the Christmas season I brushed this idea off. But one morning, with just days to go before the new year’s arrival, I decided to pray a listening prayer using the prompts my friend had provided. I asked Jesus, through His Spirit, to reveal His word for me for 2020.
The question had barely escaped my lips, when the word ABIDE sprung to mind. I followed up with another question. “Jesus. where in your Word confirms this for me?” Immediately the phrase, ‘apart from me you can do nothing’ came to mind. I had to look up this verse, as I couldn’t remember the reference. It is from John 15:5. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”
This year, 2020, God has given me the gift of His Word, John 15:5, and a clear call to abide in Him alone. I look forward to seeing all that this year brings--in my family, in my writing, in my friendships, in my spiritual, physical and emotional health, and in all of the good gifts He alone gives--as I abide in Him.
Caran Jantzen lives and writes from British Columbia.