Featured, Personal Growth

Seeking Shalom: UnPacking My #oneword for 2019

It helps me to listen for what God is doing in a particular season. It gives me a focus for what God is trying to teach me in my life.  That is why I love this #oneword thing that is all the rage now.  It was something I did, that I would listen for, before I knew it was a thing.  Look at me being trendy without knowing it.

As I headed toward the end of 2018, I began to listen for what that focus might be for me in this New Year.  What is God doing right now in my life?  What truth is he trying to lead me into more deeply?

There are many words that have been floating around in my head and heart.  Be still was a phrase that kept coming to me from various places toward the middle of last year.  It is still with me, this desire to be still… to not freak out when life feels like too much… to trust that God is holding it all.

But there was a theme developing for me and my husband at the end of 2018 year, a focus for our energy and efforts: Health.  We have been dealing with some chronic health issues from which we are trying to find relief and so our diet has come under deeper scrutiny.

And this word health also named what I longed for in some relationships where I am doing some deep, hard work.  Seeking healthy relationships that are life-giving and drawing boundaries in other ones that are not as life-giving is something I am leaning into this year.

So health feels important… but that isn’t all of it.

This word Peace keeps coming to me.  I long for a peace, an inner tranquility that centers me when I feel like the world around me is tossing me about.

Be still.  Health.  Peace.  Which one?

As I chopped some veggies at my kitchen counter a few days before the end of the year and thought on these things, it suddenly came to me: Shalom.

This word came to my attention this Fall as I found myself preparing a talk for a Women’s Bible Study I teach.  We are studying the book of Isaiah and I found myself in Isaiah chapters 7-9.  If you are familiar with these sections of Isaiah you they know hold some pretty significant passages that point to the coming of Christ, and so they find themselves front and center during the Advent season we just traveled through not that long ago.

The passage that grabbed me as I prepared my talk was the announcement in Isaiah 9:6 of the child to come.  It was a very familiar passage, one I know from memory I’ve heard it so many times, but this time I read it in the Message translation and it brought a whole new perspective on things…

For a child has been born—for us!
    the gift of a son—for us!
He’ll take over
    the running of the world.
His names will be: Amazing Counselor,
    Strong God,
Eternal Father,
    Prince of Wholeness.
His ruling authority will grow,
    and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings. Isaiah 9:6 The Message

Prince of Wholeness.  We are used to hearing “Prince of Peace.”  But here Eugene Peterson in his Message translation brings out the nuance of the word Shalom, that often becomes flattened by simply saying peace.  

The Hebrew word Shalom is often translated as “peace” throughout the Old Testament.  And “peace” is the word we usually think of when we hear the word Shalom.  But Shalom is broader than simply peace, which most likely communicates an absence of conflict in our minds. The word Shalom is so much fuller than peace.  

Shalom means completeness, wholeness, health, all around well-being.

As I thought of the various words that have held significance for me toward the end of the year, Be still… Health… Peace… it suddenly hit me, as I was chopping those veggies for dinner, that Shalom speaks to all of these various things that felt significant for my life right now.  This word Shalom, it could hold them all and take me deeper into each of these various nuances and I expect it will take me into much more.

As I held this word out before God, it seemed so clear, the confirmation of claiming this word for me this year.  Shalom. It is for my #oneword for 2019.  I will be seeking Shalom this year… digging into this word, into the fullness of what it means, and how God is wanting to bring Shalom into my life.

The reality is, Shalom is the trajectory toward which all of life is moving.  It is the truth which Julian of Norwich, the 14th century mystic, proclaimed so beautifully, “All shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”  Shalom is the deep work God is doing to make all things right.  Shalom is the state toward which God is moving the entire cosmos.

But as I think of what it means to embrace Shalom this year I think it will involve a tension… of holding on to the hope that “all will be well” and facing the reality that the fullness of this “all is well” will not come in this lifetime.

It also has me wondering if beyond the full “all is well” God will one day accomplish, might there perhaps be a Shalom we can settle into, a Shalom of the heart where we can say, it is well with my soul, even in the midst of the daily struggles, heartaches, stufferings and pain we experienced in this life? In the places in life that are not well, that don’t feel whole, can our souls come to a place of resting in a Shalom, a wholeness and well-being that transcends this life?!

I’m wondering these things this year…  and if it is possible, God, I would love to get there.

But, I think it is possible.  I think it is the peace which surpasses all understanding that Paul talks about in Philippians 4:7.  Because I believe that in the coming of Jesus Christ, he has brought a peace, wholeness, and well-being that is not only being worked out in our lives and the pain and suffering they carry, but he has given us a deeper kind of peace, his Shalom, which holds our hearts in a stillness until the ultimate vision of Shalom, until the all is well is finally accomplished.

I think this is what Jesus was giving us when he said in some of his final words to us, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

Friends, Isaiah reminds us, The Prince of Wholeness, the Prince of Shalom has come!  In the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ a new age has been ushered in, the age of the Prince of Shalom.

Jesus has come to bring us complete and total wholeness.  Jesus has come and his authority continues to grow, and there is no limit to the wholeness and well-being he is bringing about in our lives!  

So this year I’ll be keeping an eye out for the Shalom he is bring about in me.  Perhaps you might want to join me keep an eye out for the Shalom he is bringing in you too?


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