In January, I chose a Word for the Year. People do this all the time, I know – but I’ve never adopted this particular ‘fresh start’ idea. I’ve tried in years past, but inevitably I’d forget the word by mid-January, making the whole exercise rather pointless.
This time, I told my daughter about my Word of the Year; my talented daughter who runs Moon River Print Company. She’s in the business of words, and so her take on my word ended up being a tiny but powerful piece of art that hangs in my little office, affixed to the bulletin board next to the desk.
Every time I sit down to read, write, study, pray or think, this particular word sits right over my shoulder. And it made an impression. I actually remember it! Nine months later, I still have my word!
Nine months later; it’s been a season of change, for sure. My word seemed to be a good fit for my circumstances. I can’t say for sure that the word prompted me to do things differently, but it has certainly framed well many of the decision and choices I have made.
In some respects, I’ve played it safe and leaned away from the word. Blogging, for example; I’ve had much to say, but kept it to myself. I’m journaling – with pen and paper – more consistently than I ever have before; writing privately, for myself. That writing is raw and ragged, unfiltered and unedited, so in some respects it’s not safe at all; but putting public words out into public space that seems toxic and occasionally frightening has seemed even less so.
Yet things have happened, and so I’m hungry to write again, here. I’m embracing a literal changing of the guard in this season and opening up this space to share more of what’s happening in and around me. For many years, my blog has been a place of intimacy and personal stuff – stuff that was often received with grace and ‘oh, thank you for writing that – I get it – me too’. But I confess; at some point, I became more concerned about who might be displeased or disconcerted by what I wrote, and so I put the brakes on. Started self-censoring a good bit. Pretty much, I just stopped.
Stopping risking, that is.
And there it is – the operative word, the four letters that have framed so much of what 2017 has come to represent. Risk.
What I’m learning is that there is definitely an equation, a balance – a symmetry to the power of risk.
Risk = reward.
Here’s what risk has wrought: I have narrowed my field of vision and approached my work in a different way. Prompted by several simultaneous changes – needs of immediate family, a prompting from God, a realization that my identity was on shifting sand (of my own construction), sheer exhaustion – I initiated conversations with my boss and began to explore a new work paradigm.
My vocation is ministry, so talking about ‘changing my job’ and my ‘work’ is loaded. ‘Pastor’ is a title that one carries pretty much all the time; caring for people and nurturing spiritual growth doesn’t get left at the office. To be honest, I’ve struggled with setting those boundaries for well over a decade. In the past several years, I’ve spread myself out over our organization so broadly that there became just too many thin places in me. I take responsibility – these were my decisions – and I knew it was my responsibility to prioritize my own health. It’s no small challenge to consider changes in this area.
I spent a good deal of time talking and praying with my husband. I spent a good deal of time talking and praying and even crying with my pastor (change can be scary!) We worked through the needs of the church and the direction I felt I needed to go, and came up with a good plan – one that feels, as I told a friend, like “the rightest thing I’ve done in a long while.”
So we’ve made some distinctive changes to my work load. I’m back where I started, leading worship at one of our newer campuses – and I’m excited about investing in people, developing musicians, and creating moments of musical excellence. I’m going to continue to sit at the creative table (though no longer in charge), tossing out ideas that alternate between brilliant and eye-rollingly awful (like my continued pleading – for YEARS now – that we find a way to put ‘Say Something’ in a service SOMEWHERE….ANYWHERE….PLEASE?!?!?!?!?) I will continue to serve on the Senior Leadership Team.
But that’s all. Everything else, I am laying aside.
It’ll be part-time, officially; the mornings of my life will be dedicated to the ministry needs of PCC. And in the hours afterwards, you’ll find me hanging out at the music store, helping my husband. Or visiting with my dad and mom. Or doing some reading or writing for a course I’m taking.
Or going for a walk.
Or, most importantly, maybe just being still.
There doesn’t seem to be much risk in being still, but for a Type A person whose identity and sense of worth has long been based on what she does and whether or not she’s doing enough, well enough, to be approved and acceptable – it’s risky, indeed.
If I do less, will I still be of value? If I’m still, doing less, will God still look favorably upon me?
It’s a risky question; but I already know the answer.
Now, I get to prove I know it by living it.