hold fast :: sarah bessey's one word for 2015

Last year, I didn’t choose a word for my year. Even though it had been an important part of my life for a few years in a row, as 2014 dawned, I simply wasn’t feeling it. Now I wish that I had been given some prophetic word for what to expect last year – say…. Fourth-Baby-Surprise! – but that didn’t happen. Instead, the year unfolded as it would and as 2014 drew to a close, I found myself feeling, well, a bit discouraged because I was so tired. Exhausted actually. I felt like I been thoroughly poured out – in my family, in my work, in ministry, in this pregnancy – so much throughout the year that I limped into December.

And so as New Year’s Eve day drew to a close, I found myself joking on Facebook about how I wished I could make 2015 my Year of the Naps. But of course with a beloved new baby arriving in just 8 weeks or so AND a new book to edit and then release in late summer, plus all of the rest of what goes into my life – three busy and beautiful tinies to parent with my whole heart, a husband to love well, a house to keep, laundry to do, a community to love, the ongoing message of Jesus Feminist to steward well, let alone the way the world has unfolded this year breaking my heart over and over again, leaving so many of us feeling hopeless.  I felt even more exhausted contemplating what lay ahead. It is mostly good stuff, of course, but sometimes we wear ourselves out even more for the stuff we love simply because we care so deeply about it. To my husband, I admitted that my word for the year might as well be “survive” – which isn’t exactly inspiring. It simply didn’t sit well with my soul – and it was over-dramatic. (Who, me? Over-dramatic?)

I managed to carve out a couple of hours later that afternoon. The older tinies were playing outside and our littlest decided to have a nice long bath and a bit of quiet time. I found myself nearly in tears as I prayed for direction and wisdom, for the Spirit to meet me here in this overwhelming feeling of resignation and plodding along, one foot in front of the other.

Because I don’t want to miss it. I don’t want to be so tired doing my life that I miss my life – the wonder of it, the beauty of it, the sacredness of it.

One of my deepest core beliefs is that we find God most often in the raw and human moments of our lives, that God doesn’t differentiate between sacred-and-secular for us. All of our work, all of our life, can honour God. Our very regular lives can be altars for meeting with the truth of Love. In fact, those human moments are are the sacred moments – birth, grief, work, death, suffering, sex, joy, laundry, all of it. When we feel most human, God hides in plain sight. That’s perhaps why I am so captivated by the incarnation, the metaphor of God drawing near to us through a small baby’s humanity, God with us and among us as the truly human.

And I have a lot of “real life” ahead of me – that means that God is waiting for me there. With change, with new wine to drink, with challenge, with renewal, if I have eyes to see and ears to hear. And I don’t want to miss what the Spirit is doing in these days.

I don’t believe that the Spirit only shows up when we have quiet time or long solitary walks in nature or big stadiums with “rockin’ worship.” If that’s, true, then I’m doomed. No, I need to the Spirit to be breathing in my daily work, in labour and breastfeeding, in bedtime soul-talks and lunch packing, in book edits and deadlines, in email and community-building, in budget docs for non-profits and the never-ending prayers for redemption and reconciliation and rescue to break through in this tired world of ours.

As I prayed in the corner of our living room, I found myself circling around and around the phrase “hold fast.” This isn’t odd for me: I’m descended from the clan MacLeod in Scotland and that is our clan motto. My mother recently visited her ancestral homeland and so I’ve been recaptured again by our family stories, particularly how the place itself – we’re from the far north in isolated windswept, harshly beautiful communities – forms our sense of the holy.

And just as the Spirit often does, I was led, bread crumb by bread crumb, to the full table that has been set. I ended up slowly paging through a Bible to find the phrase “hold fast” as I knew it appeared often in the old King James. But when I landed in the book of Hebrews, there was that locking-into-place feeling, that sense of “oh, this is it, isn’t it?” side eye at the Spirit.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. ~ Hebrews 10:23 NKJV

There it was. The exhale, the hope, the promise – I can and will hold fast to the confession of hope without wavering for he who promised is faithful.

I began to cry, really truly cry, with relief.

Oh, right – God will meet me here in my real life as it stands right now, he is faithful, there is hope.

Part-time mystics don’t exist only in monasteries, we’re hiding in all walks of life and the Spirit often speaks as clearly in our betwixt moments. This was my answer, stumbled over while I checked on the tinies through the window every 10 minutes and kept one eye on Evelynn through the open bathroom door right before I had to start supper.

This isn’t my year to “survive” after all. This isn’t my year of rest or Sabbath and that’s okay. Those years will come someday.

Instead, this is my year to hold fast to that confession of our hope because he is faithful. And that is a truth I have learned down to my bones over the years. He is faithful. There is joy in that truth for me, real joy, not resignation and plodding. Life and life more abundant hides in our life as it stands.

He is faithful. Hold fast to hope.

Hold fast is an old sailing term, too – tying knots that hold tightly for instance. It means to remain steadfast and immovable, to cling to and adhere, to attach. For the sake of survival and safe passage to the new land, we hold fast … to hope.

… for a new baby to carry and deliver, to nurse and cherish, for my fears and anxiety, for the days ahead of both joy and work and transformation that lay ahead of me. To finish strong and release a new book to the world with my whole heart. For my three tinies, for my husband, for my vocation and calling, for my daily work, for both the small humble work of my life, for my community, for my church, for my friendships and family, for my soul’s formation, for the dreams of my heart, for growth, for everyone from Syria to Canada, Palestine to Ferguson.

Hold fast, hold fast, hold fast to the hope: he is faithful. The more I hold this phrase in the palm of my heart, turning it over and over to examine, the more I see the complex and timely beauty of it for my life.

I have hope – hope that doesn’t waver because Christ is more than enough, always has been more than enough, and always will be.

2015: Hold Fast. 

There is a One Word 365 community online if you want to check it out.

image source, used with permission

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