Our church started a program a few years ago where they encouraged us to choose one word to focus on for the year. The following is a midyear report I was asked to give on my “one word” for 2016. 

When I chose my word for this year I’ll admit that I really didn’t have a clearly defined purpose. “Different” can mean so much or so little and be applied to so many things. Some might say I’m already different enough. Truthfully, just becoming more or less different can be positive or negative depending on the application. The fact of the matter is, “different” is just what I have needed thus far. I’ll try to explain.

I don’t know where others are in their walk or journey spiritually but for me I feel I’ve come a long way from just a few years ago. My involvement in church and its activities has at times been so great that I think I ran the risk of burning out. This in and of itself is a big difference for me. I’m an introvert by nature so to be “out there among them” so to speak is not inside my comfort zone. Still, I’ve felt called and rewarded by everything I’ve done for and with the church since The Waters Edge became a part of my life and our family’s life. Through all the mission trips, Frog Pond, special events, greeting and Set Up and Tear Down I’ve been tremendously blessed to be a part of the growth of our church. So why would I choose “different” as my word?

M. Scott Peck, in Further Along the Road Less Traveled describes four stages of spiritual growth. Thus far I identify most closely with the second which relies a great deal on the constructs and activities of the church itself. It’s only at the fourth and final stage of growth that a person fully understands their place in relation to the church and has developed spiritually to their fullest extent. In the interest of full disclosure I hadn’t read Dr. Peck’s book when I chose my word but as so often occurs I’m led in directions that I only later realize were exactly where I needed to go to get me where I need to be. Now, I’m not saying I’ve achieved this fourth and final stage that Dr. Peck describes but I know now that it’s only by becoming different that I’ll get there. Really, in the beginning my decision came as a result of what I didn’t know.

I knew there was something missing in my walk, something that I could neither name nor describe; I just knew I needed to be different. I needed to be different in my prayer life. I needed to be different in my approach toward giving financially. I needed to be different in my volunteerism and involvement. I needed to be different in my courage, my vision, my personality and my relationships. The old me wasn’t bad, I didn’t think, but I knew I could be better but in order to do that I’d have to be different. So, I’ve embarked on a quest, a journey to be different. It’s taken me down some interesting roads both at church and in my personal and professional life.

I’ve kept “different” in mind as I approached things and tasks and situations that I would have shied away from in the past. I’ve stepped out, sometimes in faith, sometimes in fear and sometimes because I adopted this stupid word and I’ve given my word to myself and God that I’ll try to be different throughout the year. My word has not let me down. In fact I feel like the adventure towards living a different life, the life God has set before me and is urging me toward is one filled with so much more “life” than I was living before. The steps toward “different” aren’t always easy but they’re always worth it. The path isn’t smooth, there are bumps along the way and everything does not always go well but I know that I am growing each day. The “different” me isn’t perfect or shiny or even all that new. I still have the fears, insecurities, social qualms and struggles I’ve always had. The difference is, unlike before, the journey is not me against all these things; it is me with a change agent like none other. God is with me in this thing and it’s a feeling like I’ve never experienced.

I don’t know how different God will make me in the second half of 2016 and I’m not worried about it. I am sure there will be miles and miles to go yet by the time 2017 is knocking on the door. The comforting thing is, what I do know, is that I will be changed. I will not be the same person that started the year. My differences will have been by design in many cases and by chance in some but in all of it I believe that the architect of this change is one who I trust and love and have faith in above all else. I will be different based on the plan that God has for me and although I don’t know what that may hold; I’m okay with that (which is different).

I hope you liked this and that it wasn’t too religiousy for you (yeah, made that up). I think it has some applications outside of church too so I thought I’d share it. If you had to pick a word for 2017, what would it be? As always, I’d love to hear your comments below.


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