essays goal setting one little word spirituality writing

one little word 2016 :: REJOICE

I’ll admit, 2016’s word did not come easily to me. Last year, my soul was crying out for direction and focus, and I feel like that word just rang through my bones. But this year? I just feel like so much is on the horizon for me and I feel like I’m overflowing when I look back at the abundance of what God has given me. One word to describe that whole experience seems so small, but I really like this concept, so I prayed for God to give me direction.


As we sat down from worship on Sunday and prepared to hear the sermon, I opened my bible to the chosen scripture from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, a book we have been studying since last fall. I think it was the shortest reading I’ve ever heard at Redeemer:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
-Philippians 4:4, ESV

One of our pastors gave a great sermon on joy and I started to feel this slight pull toward that word. Joy. And then I sat down to write a reflection on last year, in which I suddenly slipped into reflection on the subject depression and suffering and what it feels like to be joyful in the midst of suffering. Not to feel happy, but to feel joy, and to have it seeping out the cracks in my heart. I am starting to see myself like a piece of Kintsugi, a Japanese word for a broken piece of pottery that has been repaired with gold. That gold is my joy. I was made with clay, shaped by hand, so very carefully and adoringly. But then when I was broken, I was repaired with an even greater measure of care, but this time God filled my cracks with gold and now I have become so much stronger and more valuable than when I was first made! But the gold was not free. I could never afford it myself, so God paid the price, and it cost him dearly: the price was the life of his son, willingly offered. And it was all so I could know the golden joy, the glittering resplendence of belonging to him fully. What must He be like?


I know a lot is ahead for Ayron and me this year. I can feel it, and it is excitement and anticipation and terror all stirred together. I want God to draw me deeper into joy so I can live in that space no matter the struggles or triumphs.

I want to live in a state of rejoicing, or as Ann Voskamp is always talking about: eucharisteo, the giving of thanks. If I’m after joy alone, I am afraid that my heart will get confused and start fixing on a financial or career goal. Don’t get me wrong, I have those goals, too, and I think they’re important. They can bring me momentary happiness, but not joy. If I am in a state of rejoicing and adoring and drawing into the God who made me, then I will automatically be pointed to joy.

I yearn to see this word in the peaks and valleys of my day-to-day life. I want to rejoice in my work, rejoice as I teach, rejoice as I cry, rejoice as I do the dishes, rejoice when I feel like I can’t get out of bed on the bad days, and rejoice when I hold my new niece or nephew. I want to rejoice if I have health problems or fights with Ayron or struggles in friendships. I want to rejoice over goals met and dreams shattered.

So I will be preaching that verse to myself all year long:
“Rejoice in the Lord, always!”
and then again, I will say, “Rejoice!”

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