Last year, as 2020 was just about to begin, a crafty friend of mine asked if I had chosen a word of the year. She was going to print her word of the year on a bunch of stickers – for her laptop, water bottle, refrigerator, etc. – some visual reminders of the word that would encompass her priorities and focus for the months ahead.
Grace, I told her.
Grace is my word of the year.
And it turned out to be more fitting than I ever could have imagined, as the rollercoaster of 2020 would require me to have grace in nearly every area of my life: grace for myself, as I struggled to navigate the fears and challenges of a pandemic; grace for my community, as they did the same. Grace for our elected leaders, and health professionals, and perfect strangers, as we all tried to make it through a season of unprecedented trials.
I didn’t pick a word this year, but if I did, I think it might have been: pivot.
Because I’ve used that one an awful lot in just the first five months of 2021. I thought things would look a certain way, but they didn’t, so I’ll have to pivot. Pivot my plans, my expectations. Pivot my actions and behaviors. Pivot how I approach certain challenges, or how I care for myself and others.
And part of this is because, in a world that is changing so fast, old answers to questions and old ways of doing things just don’t always cut it anymore. The things that I needed before are very different from the things that I need now, to take care of myself, to grow in relationship with God, to follow my calling as a pastor faithfully, to connect with my community.
I learned this in a big way last weekend, when I was able to take a few days off to spend at a cabin in Michigan with friends. It was all of our first trip out of state in many months, our first vacation certainly of this year, and so we arrived exhausted, depleted, and much in need of rest. But how to rest?
I often think that I need to get away in order to think about things; to gain new perspective on my current challenges, to find some wisdom or new ideas. But I realized, this time, that what I needed was to get away not to think. Not to run over problems in my mind a dozen more times, but to leave them be. To sit outside in my hammock, reading a book or listening to birdsong. To walk along the beach, hearing nothing but pounding waves. To stare into a campfire and maybe not even talk.
To trust that, after a year of running around like crazy, trying to understand and plan and control as much as possible, I could sit down and relinquish it all back to God. And allow myself to just BE, for a while.
It surprised me – a lot. And it required me to pivot. So that instead of lots of journaling and reading and conversation over this weekend, I actually spend the time doing a lot of sitting. Listening. Staring into space. Sleeping.
I wrote several weeks ago about how we’re living in a transition time, between the height of the pandemic and the end of it. An uncertain, in-between time. And the great biblical example of that is the Israelites living in the desert for 40 years. 40 years of in-between, wandering, transition time. But it was during that span of years, when God had them start practicing the Sabbath, and resting for a full day each week.
It is perhaps when we least feel able to rest, that we most need it.
And that rest can come in surprising forms.
So I invite you this week to take some time, and ask: what is it that I need? what do I need to rest from? and how might God be inviting me to rest? And then (here is the real challenge): follow that. Rest in the way you need to. And pivot if you must.
You’ll be in good company.