My Word for 2017

 

available-2017+

 

Each January, I choose a word that I want to focus on for the year. And inevitably, the Lord chooses another word that he knows I need more.

Last year’s word was “charitable” and it’s still remaking me. I considered choosing it again, but when I jotted down this word, I knew immediately it was the one.

Available.

I knew it was my word for 2017 because I immediately chafed when I wrote it down. I mentally justified my current attitude and actions. I assured myself I was plenty available. As available as a busy person can be.

Yet my defensiveness revealed my deep struggle. I like things to go the way I plan them. I don’t like interruptions, no matter what the source. I like accomplishing the things I set out to do.

This desire was highlighted in a show I was recently watching. One of the characters talked about keeping a two-column journal when she was a child.  Each morning, she was to write on one side how she expected the day to be. On the other side, in the evening, she was to write how the day actually was.

As soon as I heard about this exercise I realized my struggle: a perfect day for me would have both columns look identical.

Even as I write this, I’m ashamed to admit it. Aside from having no sense of adventure, I know that wanting both columns to match is nothing to boast about. It assumes that I know best what is for my life. And that my plans are really the best for me. And more importantly, that my plans are the best for God’s kingdom.

Annie Keary, a 19th century writer, viewed the interruptions and impediments to her work as sent by God to keep her from being selfish. She found that the most important work she could do for God was often some minor random thing that was thrown into her day.  That “trifling haphazard thing,” as she called it, was often the best thing she could offer God.

Annie Keary knew what it meant to be available.

I do not.

I rarely see the interruptions to my work as anything more than frustrations and annoyances. While I know that God sovereignly governs my day, in the moment all I can see are the things I’m not getting done.

A friend of my husband once said, “the most important ability in the Christian life is availability.” Availability means setting aside my agenda, what’s convenient for me, what I want to do, to embrace God’s plans and direction. Even when I do not understand God’s plans or know where they are taking me.

If I want to be used by God, I need to be available. Throughout Scripture, God uses people who are available. Abraham was available to God when he went out not knowing where he was going. Moses was on his way somewhere else when he turned aside to see the burning bush. The disciples dropped everything they were doing to follow Jesus and be available to him. They were all willing to let go of their agenda and embrace God’s.

To be honest, I don’t know exactly how to do this. Much of my activity involves doing something for God. Accomplishing something. Being available requires that I take the focus off DOING something for God and see that my primary goal is BEING something for God.

This is a hard lesson for me. I started this post over a week ago, sure it would be finished well in advance of my deadline. But an unexpected illness derailed my week and I got little accomplished. As I lay in bed, resenting this unwelcome interruption, I realized God was teaching me to be available. My illness made no sense to me and I wanted to get on with what I was planning to do.

But being available isn’t about being productive. It’s about submitting to what God brings across my path and asking him what to do next. It’s being willing to set aside my plans and to change my course.

Being available is being led where I would not choose to go because I trust the One who is leading me.

As I have been praying about what availability looks like, I have been drawn to two accounts in Luke 10. The first is the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). The priest and the Levite saw the man who had been attacked by robbers on the side of the road, but they were too busy doing something for God to stop. So they passed by on the other side to avoid him altogether. In their minds, God needed their service more than this man needed their help. The Samaritan was going somewhere as well but he was willing to lay aside what he was doing and attend to what God put in front of him.

As I read this, I wondered how many wounded people God has put in front of me whom I’ve scarcely noticed in my preoccupation with serving God my way.

The account of Mary and Martha follows in Luke 10:38-42. Jesus and his disciples went to the home of Martha and she welcomed them in. Martha wanted to serve Jesus and the disciples.

Yet when things didn’t go as planned, Martha felt the weight of what was undone. She needed others to cooperate with her. And she wanted the Lord to rebuke her sister who wasn’t helping. Martha wanted to DO something for God. But Martha didn’t ask Jesus what he wanted her to do. She assumed that she knew.

Mary wanted to BE something for God. She didn’t come with their own agenda but was waiting to hear God’s agenda. Mary listened. She waited. She was available.  Perhaps Mary didn’t accomplish as much as Martha, but she saw that letting God do things IN her was more important than her doing things FOR God.

God doesn’t need my frenzied effort to accomplish his kingdom purposes. Or my insistence that ministry go according to my plan. He simply needs me to be available to him.  And he will do the rest.

After all, this life is about his kingdom and not mine.

May his kingdom come.

 

 

 

 

  • January 6, 2017 - 6:40 am

    Miranda Bennett - This is so convicting in the best way possible. I have 4 kiddos and am quite “busy”. I too very much like for my days to go as I see best. Rarely am I happily available to interruptions. Thank you for this reminder that the Lord is sovereign over ALL things and that I can embrace interruptions and change joyfully.ReplyCancel

    • January 6, 2017 - 4:13 pm

      Vaneetha - So glad it was helpful to you…I’m praying the Lord will help me live into it since the “interruptions” to my day abound. 🙂 But I’m thankful for the way God so gently changes our perspective and priorities!ReplyCancel

  • January 6, 2017 - 5:55 pm

    Laurie Wright - I read your post today as I lay in bed sick for the 6th day in a row. Patience is not one of my virtues but God keeps bringing me back to it in so many ways. I have been caught up in the DOING vs BEING stronghold for most of my adult life and I get so discouraged when I see I’m not making much progress. My focus on DOING seems to bring out so many ugly character flaws, like expecting others (including God) to appreciate what I’ve DONE for them and feeling resentful and hurt when they don’t. DOING also has a tendency to nullify grace as it seeks to EARN God’s approval instead of accepting it as His gift. My word for the year is INTENTIONAL and to be intentional I’m going to have to be available to what God wants me to be intentional about :o) Thank you for your willingingness to be vulnerable in your posts. It helps me to know that other Christians struggle with the same things I do.ReplyCancel

    • January 6, 2017 - 6:40 pm

      Vaneetha - I’m sorry about your illness, Laurie, but so grateful for what the Lord is showing all of us through our weaknesses- that His grace is sufficient. Intentional is a great word to focus to too!ReplyCancel

  • January 6, 2017 - 7:25 pm

    Sarah Spencer - Vanetha,
    I was so encouraged by your post today. I started planning for Christmas while I was on vacation in September. The perfect Christmas!! Ha!! As soon as I set foot back in my hometown my plans started going haywire. One family situation after another. Finally, one day in December, while decorating my tree I just broke down in tears and started crying. My husband embraced me and asked what was wrong. I just whispered ” I just want a little peace in my life.” As soon as those words left my mouth? God reminded me that I can experience his peace in difficult circumstances. I think He is reminding me that His plans are different than mine. I began to understand that being present for my family is more important than trying to have the perfect Christmas. This post was so timely for me. Your words are do encouraging to me. Thank you for your honesty.ReplyCancel

    • January 6, 2017 - 8:02 pm

      Vaneetha - So glad this was encouraging Sarah! Its so hard to embrace plans that our different than ours- but it can be so freeing as well when we realize we can let go of having everything perfect. Thanks for writing.ReplyCancel

  • January 12, 2017 - 2:17 pm

    Dana - Thank you so much for this post! I work in retail and I am interrupted quite often as I am often doing a job on the sales floor the same time as being available to provide customer service. Your post was such great preparation the day before one of my shifts last week, and continues to be the most excellent re-focussing in both my job and my marriage. I really appreciate the comprehensiveness of your post and you are so right, how important it is for us to be available to God and to lay aside our own agendas. Last week ended up being quite an exciting week as time and time again God used me to bless others – it was one of those ‘top of the mountain’ experiences. With gratitude, DanaReplyCancel

    • January 12, 2017 - 2:48 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you for letting me know, Dana! So glad it was helpful.ReplyCancel

  • January 14, 2017 - 9:35 am

    Jim - Vaneetha – Once again, your thoughts have provoked me. I am easily irritated and inevitably it is around an interruption of my plans… Blessings sister. Your thoughts here will form the foundation of my youth lesson tomorrow. In Him – JimReplyCancel

    • January 16, 2017 - 12:01 pm

      Vaneetha - So thankful this was helpful. Being available to interruptions is still a challenge for me…but He’s teaching me!ReplyCancel

  • January 16, 2017 - 9:46 am

    Kristal Mitchell - Reading your book now. What a blessing.ReplyCancel

  • February 16, 2017 - 1:16 am

    Sami - I think I’m your twin….as I read your post in Desiring God I saw the link to your blog….as I read both items you wrote I found myself smiling…I’ve found someone who sees life the way I do. After a 17 year battle, my husband died in Nov last year…then our dog died right before Christmas and I had surgery right after Christmas. The surgery ended up being a more difficult recovery than anyone had planned for and would not have been so difficult except for the fact that I am the primary caretaker or our son who is 23 and on the autusm spectrum….the days and nights of my recovery were so very very dark….I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through….but I did and then this week I learned that my employer is going to be facing some deep cuts 40% and layoffs are coming….I related so deeply to your article about life never getting easier and the paralell with Joseph….then I read this article and I knew you were a kindred spirit. My word for 2017 is …. empty …. yeah you read that right….empty…I wanted to throw it across the room when I first head it….even thought it might be drug induced….but it wasn’t and hasn’t been….it’s been everything you listed above. By BEING empty God can flow through me and bring greater glory to His name. He is also showing me His glory and power….so I’m right here with you in this 2017….empty as ever and the waves keep hitting….but I’m seeing God move….even though there are times when I’m terrified…I’m choosing to trust Him. Thanks for your words…they made me feel a little less crazy……ReplyCancel

    • February 16, 2017 - 10:51 am

      Vaneetha - Oh Sami… I can’t imagine how difficult these past four months have been. I am deeply sorry for all that you have been through, but praising God that you can trust Him even in the midst of all the suffering you have endured. Praying as I write this that 2017 will empty you of yourself because you are being filled with Him. Filled to overflowing. That He would do immeasurably more than you can ask or imagine and that you would be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.ReplyCancel

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