In January of 2017, my husband and I were flying home from visiting family in Texas. We were both engrossed in our own reading when he very suddenly started shuffling around, looking for something. I saw him grab his napkin and start scribbling frantically. He slid the napkin across his tray table for me to see and we both removed our headphones.
“I think that’s my word,” he said.
I asked, “Was it in the book you’re reading?”
“No, it just popped into my head. So random.”
He doesn’t do words, really. It’s not his thing. Do you know what I’m talking about? My One Word? It's that annual process of discovering a Spiritual lens through which you view your year. I have an annual ritual of surveying my year month by month and making notes about themes, major revelations, challenges, circumstances, and prayers. This practice never fails to move me to overwhelming gratitude. His love and faithfulness give me the strength to press on. I love it and it has been impactful every year that I’ve gone through that process of seeking God for my one word. When we got home I was eager to research “forge" in my own way and look for the meaning of this divinely assigned word.
What ensued from there was one of the wildest digs I’ve ever been on. I looked up the definition and dissected the meaning. I searched my concordance for every scripture associated with each synonym. I’d uncover a bit of scripture and look for where it connected to other passages and the study notes would take me to the Greek and Hebrew. I’d get so excited; this was going to be a whopper of a revelation! Then from there, the Holy Spirit would show me where something from earlier connected to something I’d been reading elsewhere, and on and on and on. For days! I tried to map it all out over and over. Every time it just looked like spaghetti noodles from all the linking and crossing over as I drew lines between verses and connected the concepts or themes. My stuff connected to Joel’s stuff and community stuff and work stuff… There was no way to neatly visualize this storm of a revelation. I kept at it, though. I was seeking to pull just one idea from it all. What was God getting at?
WHAT DID IT MEEEEEAAAN?!
There were just so many scriptures repeating from so many areas of our life and so many nuances to the way one thing connected to the next.
When I finally gave up and decided to set it down for a while, God finally revealed what He was getting at. Of course, right?
The expectancy around the bigness of the revelation was the same expectancy He wanted me to hold over the year ahead.
The message was so vast and so vague, but my understanding of it was crystal clear.
He was doing something BIG in our lives.
There was good reason to believe that with all that my husband and I were working on and planning at that time, that this prophecy was about our endeavors or circumstances. We walked into 2017 and all of our big changes and projects with radical faith and unbridled courage in both of our hearts. The word "forge" never held much meaning for my husband this year. And even as he reflected on his year last week, he wasn't sure exactly what it meant.
The word wasn't random, though. Not one bit. Looking back as I look ahead in 2018, I can see that “forge" was actually for me all along. Sorry, Joel… I think I’m retroactively stealing your word a little.
See, leading up to that point I'd spent such a long time afflicted by a spirit of offense and anger that even after I recognized it, my reflexes were still a little jumpy. The first half of 2017 was spent in repentance and intentionally deprogramming my thought patterns and emotional responses.
As I was praying over 2018 and seeking God to know His heart for me in the coming months, the Holy Spirit reminded me of one particular moment from 2017 that gave “forge” it's meaning.
I was at a community event with some new friends back in June when a particular local business owner’s name came up in conversation. I had been witness to some uncivil discourse between this business owner and some others in the community a few years back. I suppose I'd been holding on to my judgment of the situation all that time. No sooner did the name come up than scalding words of anger came flying out of my mouth like fire from a dragon. My words evidenced my bitter heart. I could tell my words shocked my new friends a little. This was their first glimpse of the battle-ready inner ugliness of this wounded warrior. I’d been cooperating with a spirit of offense for so long that I was desensitized and unaware of the negative impact of my angry and prideful words on the people around me. I was immediately regretful of what I’d said and the moment kept coming to mind over the next couple of days.
That Sunday morning I was listening to worship music as I was getting ready for church and a song from Bethel came on. One of the lyrics startled me into a position of attention to what the Lord was saying.
When I heard those words The Holy Spirit showed me a picture of a soldier just back from war sleeping with a pistol under his pillow, still on guard from all the fighting and defending and offensive attacks.
Standing there in my bathroom I surrendered my heart and confessed my habitual state of being offended, my readiness for war. I laid my weapons on the ground and worshipped Him with a freedom I hadn’t experienced in several years.
During communion that morning, I repented of my angry words and asked God to forgive me. He brought this scripture from Isaiah 2 back to mind. I’d studied it when I was researching “forge” for Joel six months before. Isaiah 2:4 says,
"He will settle disputes among the nations
and provide arbitration for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plows
and their spears into pruning knives.
Nation will not take up the sword against nation,
and they will never again train for war."
Sitting there in the service, I was undone by His ability to dissolve sin into non-existence. In a moment, His authority turns war to peace. Because of Christ, we can turn our attention from fighting to growing and bearing fruit.
My sword of offense was beaten into a plow of honor that would prepare the soil of the hearts of others to receive the truth about their identity. My spears of anger have been reshaped and repurposed as pruning knives that remove the unproductive branches from my life.
The war is over. Victory is mine in Jesus’ name. I can now dwell in peace.
Yes, peace. No more fighting. I’m agreeing with the King to lay my weapons down. Like that soldier I’d seen, my restless soul had withered. Let the lightness and life of peace be a restorative balm in the coming year.
A City of Peace is described in Isaiah 2:1-4. A place where all people will stream to like a river.
God, thank you for healing me. Teach me the way of peace in 2018. Use me as your instrument of peace in the lives of others this year and always. Let’s show them Heaven, Jesus.
A lot happened in our lives this year that could be viewed as “big”. But, as I look back, the big deal was what He forged in my heart. I hold fast to that expectancy even as the year has ended. I believe that was His word for our entire future. That’s His promise for each of us every single day. I can say with confidence that God is going to do something BIG in your life in 2018. It might not be what you’re expecting, so dig deep and watch for His hand of sovereignty in your life.