Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know it’s the end of March and I am just picking my word for the year. For those who don’t know, many people (including lots of bloggers I know) pick a word for the year in lieu of resolutions. It may be a word that you need to focus or meditate on so that it becomes absorbed into your life. Or perhaps it’s something that you lack or want to achieve. Or it could be your battle cry, the word you shout to yourself and the world the whole year as you claim victory in your life.
My word has been chasing me since January. I wanted a profound word, something that would make me seem intelligent and thoughtful and spiritual. Or a pretty word that would make for nice, lovely meditations full of rainbows and butterflies. But instead I was ambushed by a word from the canvas over our son’s bed.
Here is what I am commanding you to do. Be strong and brave. Do not be terrified. Do not lose hope. I am the Lord your God. I will be with you everywhere you go. Joshua 1:9, NIrV (emphasis mine)
I am so not brave. One of the reasons this verse means so much to me is because of the deep, suffocating fear that has hounded me my whole life. I needed to be reminded that God would never leave me and would be with me in every battle. But brave? I never even imagined being brave. It just didn’t register.
I refused to embrace this word. I looked around for something prettier, something that fit better. I wasn’t remotely brave, so how could I claim this word as my own? And if I’m honest, I didn’t want “brave” to define my year because that seemed to imply the year would hold scary, difficult challenges where I would need to exercise bravery. Um, no thanks! Can’t I have joy instead?
In Judges 6 there is the story of Gideon, an unlikely hero that God used to defeat an enemy in an unconventional way. When Gideon first learns he is to lead his countrymen in battle, he is hiding from the enemy, threshing wheat for his family. He is a frightened farmer, not a battle-trained soldier.
And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” Judges 6:12
Mighty man of valor. This was the way the angel addressed a timid man from an insignificant family in the weakest clan of a small tribe in Israel. Gideon didn’t even acknowledge or notice this new title. His first words expressed doubt and fear and uncertainty and despair.
Did the angel get it wrong?
Gideon’s new descriptor, mighty man of valor, did not describe who he was but who he would become. God saw in him the seed for greatness and courage. And as Gideon moved forward in obedience to the difficult and downright odd tasks God gave him, he became that mighty warrior. Those words spoken over him bloomed into a truth Gideon could not have imagined. God clothed Gideon with His very presence, empowering Gideon to do what he was not able on his own (Judges 6:34).
You know those make-over shows? The ones where they take a clueless, disheveled people with mismatched and worn out clothes and give them a new wardrobe and new haircuts? The best of them (ahem, What Not to Wear) do more that just give a person a few new outfits. As they begin to see themselves in a new light, they stand a little taller, smile a little bigger. They are transformed because someone saw beyond what they were to what they could be. I think that something similar happened with Gideon – and can happen with us. God can take our timid, insecure, proud, fragile, angry, awkward, reluctant selves and transform us by His presence in our lives.
I am not brave. I’m not even sure I want to be brave. But this word has been spoken over me and so I trust that God will transform me. I will clothe myself in His presence and believe that the process He has in place will change the way I see myself, the way I see the world. And I wouldn’t be opposed to a new wardrobe for the journey – or at least a new pair of shoes.