Back in 2000, I decided it would be a good idea to have a ‘word for the year’. A word to characterise my year – not forsaking all others, but informing its trajectory.
I didn’t realise it at the time, but lots of people do this. Lots did it back then, even more do sixteen years later. Last year, almost everyone at The Big Table got themselves a word or two!
In 2000, my word was ‘ALSO’.
It was the first year I went bi-vocational, adding ministry work at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church to my work with The Globe.
There was slightly more to it than that. I’d noticed time and again, that Jesus would often add ‘but I say to you’ as he taught about something. The phrase added the values of the Kingdom that Jesus came to announce to the prevailing understanding. The law tended to advocate the minimum, the ‘also’ of the Kingdom brought a new currency of love and grace that was other-centred and God-glorifying rather than self-protective and law-protecting. This made ultimate sense for any Jesus-follower.
There’s been a bunch of words in the intervening years: fresh, sow, simplicity, robust, spacious, and re(de)fine among them.
As years have passed I’ve noticed a couple of things: First, the turning of year does not necessitate the turning away from the words of previous years. It’s more a layering than an about-face. Second, simply choosing a word that you’d love to characterise your year will not make it so. In fact, in some years it’s been brutally un-prophetic! A bit like 2003 when I chose ‘revel’ as my word of the year — perhaps I’d meant to choose ‘revolting’ as it would have been a far better description. Or excavating. Or eviscerating. Just not ‘revel’.
Anyway, it’s taken me 31 days to get to writing something about it, but my word for 2016 is ‘adventure’.
Like other years, it was a word that gathered some momentum in my spirit and suddenly had few competitors.
As I began framing the year, though, I started wondering what adventure meant for me. I nearly bought a Land Rover Defender in a quite literal expression of the word. I’m still not averse to the notion, but I’m unlikely to take up hard-core 4WD-ing when it’s never been something I’ve hankered after.
Perhaps it would mean holidaying to exotic or remote locations. We’re travelling as a family to Uganda and Italy later in the year so it’s not disconnected with this. Or it might mean camping with Molly, some form of culinary adventure or doing something with a seatainer (a long-term ache!)
While these tangible expressions of adventure are fine enough, it was a deeper adventure that was stirring. Something more confronting.
Curiously, vulnerability, exposure and shame were wrapped up in there somewhere. A willingness to enter into the fray and see what Jesus wanted to do in and through me as I sort to abandon me and be found in Him.
The ultimate adventure is to be wrapped up in the biggest story of all. It is to locate yourself in a story that began before the creation of all things and to find yourself fulfilling the uniquely personal plans and purposes of your Creator in the context of eternal communion with Him. If anyone’s got anything bigger than that going – whether real or imagined – let me know.
So adventure is about letting go of more and more of me so I can more deeply enter the holy adventure in Jesus.
It its heart, adventure is not knowing. It’s being willing to hit ‘post’ or ‘send’ or say ‘yes’ when you don’t know what might happen next.
At the end of last year, while still trying to figure out what adventure meant, I scribbled a couple of phrases in the back of my old diary. They don’t put arms and legs on the body, but they give it a heartbeat.
Adventure is the edge of exposure. If experiencing adventure demands greater exposure, whether publicly or through vulnerability, I don’t want to shrink away.
Adventure is saying what you mean to say, not cloaking the truth. It’s being braver with the good news of Jesus.
Adventure is joining in on what the Holy Spirit is doing around me so I can enjoy more of what God is doing. In a pastoral context, it’s a willingness to push God’s people towards where He’s calling us.
Adventure is not allowing my frailty to paralyse my future because my story is wrapped up in a bigger Truth. It is to eschew safety in my flesh for a wilder ride in Jesus.
It turns out that it’s a lot of things and, at January 31, there’s plenty of its chapters to play out.
Like this post, it’s incomplete, but it’s begun.
Thanks for listening.