One of my favorite writers wrote a post early in 2015 about the word for her year. Her word, actually her multiple words for 2015, were Hold Fast.
That post has stayed with me. In fact, it provoked and prodded me to claim and write about a word that would define my year, too. But I wasn’t quite ready to write it early in the year and it turns out I wasn’t ready to write it in the middle of the year, either. It was only at the end of the year, looking back on a year that felt frenzied and heartbreaking and exhilarating all rolled into one that I was finally ready to write.
So for the last few months, on the side dashboard in Scrivener, the app I use to write, in the unpublished folder sat an untouched file that stared right at me:
One Word: With.
That’s because throughout 2015, which in many ways has been a year I wanted to blow through as fast as possible and skip straight to 2016 , With has been the word that has kept me going. Regardless of whether the days have been good or unceasingly long, whether they were ordinary or exciting, whether they were spent in Laguna Beach taking in the beauty of the Pacific Ocean or in my new locale South of the River here in Knoxville, the word and the the qualities I have been reminded of again and again is the truth of this season in the life of our faith – God is With Us.
With was the strength that helped me survive 2015’s beginning, which honestly is still a blur, as I made it through the days while grieving for a future that might have been but isn’t yet. In the midst of long conversations and seemingly random triggers, the holiness of With shortened the dark days and strengthened my soul.
With was the steady hand I needed in the spring as I was tossing and turning while waiting in a system that can be both comfortingly familiar and terrifyingly foreign. During a month of stressing and hoping and staring at my phone, the power of With was what kept me sane in a time that seemed designed to do just the opposite.
With was the comforting presence that kept me anchored as I searched for community after some close friends moved away and other relationships drifted apart. In the darkness of isolation, some of it self-inflicted, With was there with the assurance and compassion of One who knew exactly who I was and with the encouragement that I was never alone.
With was the perseverance that shoved me into leadership in a new place with new people, answering my self-doubt and quieting the haunting questions of whether what I actually knew what I thought I knew. With was the assuring voice that reminded me that God has actually equipped me for this new challenge in this new place.
And With has infused me with hope, despite the violence and despair that we have experienced in the city that I love and the unceasing bitterness and constant heartache that we experience from news around the world.
God Is With Us. What does it all mean?
God With Us means that there is a presence and power that doesn’t abandon us in the good times or the bad. God With Us means there is someone who rejoices when you rejoice and who weeps with you as you weep.
God With Us means knowing that when your heart breaks someone else’s heart breaks too. God With Us means being confident that while you are struggling with anxiety and brokenness you don’t struggle alone.
God With Us is about God’s powerful Spirit inspiring you to step out and do something bold and pushing you beyond the limits of what feels comfortable and safe. And God With Us reminds you that even if and when you fall, the landing might not always be soft, but it will never be jagged, crushing or life-ending.
We talk a lot about God With Us this time of year. It is, in fact, the most important thing we will say today and tomorrow and throughout the Twelve Days.
Each time we say it we are forced to answer the question that comes with it – is it true? Is it actually true or is just another religious phrase, more words we say only because we are supposed to?
If I learned anything in 2015, is is this: With isn’t just a word. God With Us isn’t just a phrase. It is true.
No matter what, God is With Us.