Last year, my family chose to have a word of the year. On New Year’s Eve, I sat at our kitchen table with my husband and our four children, then ages eight and under, and clicked on Jennifer Fulwiler’s online Word of the Year generator. The word we got was … patience.
My husband and I looked at each other across the table. I imagine he was thinking what I was thinking: “God, really? Really? … Okay, fine.”
Our kids were more readily on board (not sure they totally thought it through, but it worked out), and we learned a lot about patience through the year — patience with each other, patience with ourselves, and patience with God. The sins I most often bring to Confession result from my patience wearing thin. As hard as it was to accept, I knew God wanted to do a good thing in me.
I grew in my awareness of said lack of patience. I started to find ways to catch myself before I lost my temper. I gave people — including myself — more slack. I realized where I had room to grow in trusting the Lord. I didn’t succeed every time, but I made some progress.
Our family worked on patience together, reminding and challenging each other as needed. My older kids in particular could appreciate what we were doing. It was a beautiful thing to work on one aspect of our still-developing spiritual lives as a family. I knew I wanted to do it again.
At the end of the year, I started to pray about the next year’s word. I asked the Holy Spirit to guide us when we clicked that button. When I made that prayer, I had a sense, even before going online, that our 2020 word should be peace.
When I’d asked the Lord to help me be patient in certain situations, I’d experienced a good kind of detachment from those things. I wasn’t as emotionally involved in things that I didn’t need to be. I realized I was shouldering less on my own, and I’d learned to trust God more. I was finding peace in situations where I’d committed to patience. My exercise in patience had turned into a lesson in peace. This wasn’t next year’s word; this was the culmination, the evolution, the growth of our current word.
Patience had given way to peace.
With more prayer, I discerned our word for 2020 should probably be serve. We clicked the button on New Year’s Eve anyway, and the Holy Spirit gave us friendship. Immediately I could see connections between these two, and I can’t wait to see them unfold.
But I will wait, because as St. Teresa of Avila (our saint of the year) said, “Patience achieves everything.”
Copyright 2020 Lindsay Schlegel