You never know what a year will hold as you look upon it from its beginning. Something like a Monopoly board, your life is you standing on “Go,” looking ahead at the Boardwalks and Park Places you intend to purchase, then rolling the dice. As you land on someone else’s property, it doesn’t take long to realize that what you plan and what becomes reality are sometimes not the same thing at all.
Hear what I’m NOT saying. I’m not saying life is a roll of the dice. We have a God who is good and trustworthy and sovereign–to whom we’re meant to look. We have brains and hearts and instincts–all of which we’re meant to use.
But, somewhere in our lives we start to recognize that we cannot anticipate the “Free Parkings” any more than we can see the “Go to Jails” coming.
So, as I stood on my “Go,” looking ahead to 2017, I could see a lot on our calendar. A lot. But, compared to my anticipation of 2016, life felt pretty settled, overall.
I’d survived my second-born going off to college and my youngest starting high school.
I’d navigated some transitions in my job, certainly with a lot of help and prayer.
I could see clearly all the ways God’s hands had been in every change, at every turn, over every situation.
I could also feel myself growing as a believer: Bible study was opening my eyes to truths about God. A few books I read were awakening in me a desire to move toward self-awareness–again. Friendships were growing deeper and more intentional.
Seeing these built my faith.
And I wanted to continue on these paths, as well as, prepare for the year ahead. Seeing the full 2017 calendar at a distance, however, I knew I’d risk losing the ground I’d gained if I wasn’t intentional.
I needed to be anchored in Christ.
So, ANCHOR it was–my new word for 2017.
Maybe that felt like a leap for you, from Monopoly to “anchor.” And maybe in reality it was a leap of sorts. I hadn’t had any big ah-ha moments about my new word or tons of signs pointing that direction. But, when I look back, I think God used a few breadcrumbs to help me land on “anchor.”
One was a song we’d been singing in worship, “Cornerstone” by Hillsong. A line in the song, “My anchor holds within the veil,” had been deeply resonating within me. And while I didn’t have full understanding, I did find myself using that language in my prayers–that God would be my anchor.
Another breadcrumb was the story of Peter walking on water–a story I had been going to a lot in that season. When Peter took his eyes off Jesus, he sank. If he had kept his eyes on Jesus, had let Jesus be his anchor in the middle of the storm, he wouldn’t have been blown about.
I wanted that. Yearned for it, in fact.
As my heart started latching onto the imagery of Jesus as my anchor, this passage jumped out at me:
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf….” Hebrews 6:19-20 (NIV)
Imagine my surprise to discover that the verse in the song and the verse in Hebrews were related! Hear it from UK pastor, Tim Barton:
“…This song, written by Hillsong, directly lifts its verses from a well known hymn, Solid Rock. This hymn was written by Edward Mote and published in 1837. …Mote captures in one short phrase [“our anchor holds within the veil”] the timeless truth of our assurance of salvation and coming before God. …Our hope is not that we can come before God, but our hope remains that Jesus entered that most Holy Place, and tore the curtain (veil) that divided God and man. And that now, in Him, we can be fully confident to come before the Father because of Christ’s work on the cross. …We have a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, that Jesus has gone as a forerunner ON OUR BEHALF! What a great hope.” (“Cornerstone — Explained” post at amblecotechristiancentre.org.uk)
“A sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.” Yep, that’s what I wanted. That’s what I sought as I crossed “Go” and started making the turns through 2017.
The full calendar of 2017 included quite a few trips. Some small, more “normal” trips for us–hiking in state parks during spring break, a week with family at the river, and an added week of vacation in Colorado. But also on the calendar were my husband’s big reunion with fraternity brothers in the spring and a real “getaway” for the two of us in the fall to Charleston. And just as I got back from Charleston, I headed to the Holy Land with a group from our church.
This amount of travel was not normal in my life.
Recognizing ahead of time that traveling can be an “un-anchoring,” I knew I needed some real anchors before setting out. The late nights, lack of routine, and anticipation of all the “new” that comes with traveling can distract me from being in the Word and spending time with God.
So, how did I “anchor” myself in all this moving about?
One way–I stayed firm in my Bible study group. Turns out I need the accountability my study group gives me to make sure I finish each chapter every week. The consistency that comes with being in a weekly group holds me accountable to both being in the Word and in holy friendships. Added benefits–I learn a lot and I love these women.
Another way I stayed anchored–I sought to be relentless in my reading of The Daily Text, a Scripture-based post J.D. Walt of Seedbed sends out every morning via email. Now, just because I choose The Daily Text doesn’t mean there aren’t other great daily readings out there. I just prefer this one because it’s fuller and richer than most, it challenges me, and I really like J.D.
A third anchor–words. By 2017, I’d been blogging here for over three years, and I was discovering that writing is my release. Whether I’m typing on a keyboard or using a pen to write in a journal, nothing helps me get beyond the distractions, into what I’m actually feeling, and toward what God is trying to show me like writing. Again, writing is how I connect best with God. You discover yours and lean into it–maybe it’s art or nature or music or dance or walking or running…
As each trip came and went in 2017, the lesson of “anchor” took hold (ha–made a punny!). I noticed that when I was good about staying firm in my practices (above), my heart and mind found solid ground in Jesus. I was less anxious and more at peace, and I felt more confident in what I was doing.
But when I let the distractions get the better of me, when my study and prayer times fell short, I started to sink. Just like Peter, as my focus shifted from Jesus, I would lose my footing. Fear and doubt were among the waves that would pull me down.
Now, as full as 2017 was with plans, there were plenty of “unscheduled” blips on the radar, as well. My health wasn’t great–my lungs and my kidney were unhappy most of the time, so I was TIRED all the time. Not a great way to be with life as full as it was.
There were also stressors–like a big shake-up in a friend group and a colleague’s resignation–that brought me lots of angst and anguish. Some stressors weren’t bad, just stressful–like having Bob Goff speak at our church in the middle of Advent. So good. So hard. All at the same time. Or like having to make the difficult decision to let a good ministry go so a different one would have room to grow.
And through it all, I kept having to look to God. If it weren’t for my relationship with Him, 2017 would have absolutely derailed me. But, guess what?
My anchor held!
Each time a new wave crashed into and over my world, I wiped the water off my face and reached my hand back up to Jesus. He’d pull me to my feet and set me back on my path.
Heck, there were even days I walked on water. (figuratively, of course)
So, if you’re still wondering how you’re going to make it through all that this year holds, take a note from my 2017 experiences.
Anchor yourself in Christ…
- by staying in His Word.
- by aligning yourself with Christian friends who will love you, encourage you, and hold you accountable.
- by doing whatever helps you most to remain in His presence.
- by never giving up. Even if you have a day or week or month where you fail miserably, look back to Jesus and reach that hand right on up there.
Jesus is our anchor! Let’s not cross “Go” till we get a firm grip on Him.
Taking His hand, Shelley Johnson