Written by Amber Crafton
Before last year, I had never participated in the new-year trend of choosing a word or phrase as a theme for the upcoming year. As 2017 came to a close, however, I found myself being drawn into a year-long observance of Advent; as a result, 2018 ended up with the de facto word, WAIT.
My year of Advent didn’t actually come to a close until the middle of January this year, but I began in December trying to think ahead to what I would do once it ended. Part of me longed to just start over and do it all again, but I think that was mostly driven by the fear of being without a plan and by the impending loss of what had become familiar and routine, even if it is meaningful routine. As I thought through what might come after Advent, I gradually found myself searching for a word for 2019, hoping it might help anchor and direct my intention. Several were in the running—I could stick with wait and continue to lean into that, but I was also considering free, whole, and rest. In the end, though, everything that resonated with me about those four words finally condensed down into one:
If you look up anticipate in the dictionary, you’ll find a bunch of definitions related to preparation and getting ahead of things, but the definition that solidified this word for my 2019 theme is this:
“to look forward to as certain : EXPECT”
Anticipation is a form of waiting, but it’s expectant, forward-looking. Rather than focusing on the present absence or lack inherent in waiting, anticipation holds onto and prepares for the time when the waiting will be answered, when the promise will be fulfilled. In other words, anticipation is faith:
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. —Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)
This fits so well for me as I proceed through 2019. Last year was all about sitting down in the spaces where I am still waiting for answers and fulfillment, about acknowledging and pressing into the pain, the lack, the confusion, and the uncertainty of my waiting instead of running away from them. But acknowledging and pressing into those painful spaces is only half the journey. I have no timetable—nor any guarantee—for the provision of the answers or fulfillment I long for, so what do I do with those things after I have acknowledged their existence and been honest about the pain they create in my heart? How do I keep from crossing the line into self-indulgent wallowing?
The answer for me is found in the definition of anticipate: I look forward. I lift my eyes (Psalm 121:1), I orient my steps (Philippians 3:13–14), and I fix my heart (Hebrews 11:39–12:2) on the One who promises to uphold me (Isaiah 41:10) in the midst of whatever I may encounter, whether it be trials, joys, or the pain of waiting.
My year of Advent taught me that my waiting is not rooted in the things of this earth that I long for, but rather in my longing for Christ to return and take me home to the eternity with Him that He has promised. But this year, I sense Him shifting my focus to how I wait for that. For me, anticipate is all about the attitude and posture of my heart in my waiting, not the reality of waiting itself. Will I allow the rays of hope to bring light to my pain, or will I wallow in its darkness? Will I dig for joy among the rubble of the brokenness in my story, or will I complain about the pain of gravel under my bare feet? Will I give thanks to and praise the One who makes my paths straight for His name’s sake, or will I shake my fist at Him for leading me through the valley of the shadow of death in the first place? Will I show up when He calls to me, or will I run to lesser lovers?
I confess that all to frequently I choose to wallow, to complain, to shake my fist, and to seek lesser lovers, but I am thankful for a tender, loving, faithful God who never gives up on me and who doesn’t let me give up on myself. I anticipate great things this year. Even if they end up being small great things, I have no doubt they will be nothing short of milestones and markers for my journey homeward, feeding my faith and reminding me every day that “He who promised is faithful” (Heb 10:23).