From CE USA Director Alan Avera:
A few years ago, my son forwarded me a New Year’s blog by Christopher Penn, introducing a “3-word exercise” for the new year. Slightly different than the typical New Year’s resolutions, these three words are chosen to reflect a desired character growth or aspirational value you want to see in yourself.
Each New Year’s day since then, I’ve chosen three words to keep as my focus or direction for the upcoming year. In 2019, I chose the words listen, stretch, and pray. Here’s a short summary of how these words impacted me this past year.
Listen: This word was a repeat from 2018, and it’s a discipline I continually need to sharpen. Like so many in my culture and generation, I tend to move ahead to the point I want to make before fully hearing what God and others are trying to communicate to me. As a result, “listen” has been a helpful, though not always successful, two-year focus for me.
Stretch: This word expressed my desire to continually grow and adapt as I moved into my mid-sixties. Many people and activities kept me stretching this year, from my job to my racquetball partners to my growing family (which now includes two granddaughters). I give thanks for the abundant community God has placed around me that keeps me stretching.
Pray: This word was on my 2019 list because I was tired of my prayer life being so lackluster. Apparently I haven’t grown tired enough yet to make prayer the priority it has to be. For that reason, prayer will be a repeat word for 2020.
As January 1, 2020 marks not just a new year, but also a new decade, I chose words for this year that focus on my outward actions towards others more than merely inward growth. Here are my three words for 2020: develop, disclose, pray.
Develop: This is an action I want to direct toward others. Throughout my life, so many people have invested in me. Now I want to pay it forward by helping others realize their giftedness and reach their potential. The Bible teaches that we are masterpieces made in God’s image (Eph. 2:10), yet we are also broken and corrupted by our sin. I want to help people realize that God not only provides the rescue from our sin, but that he is also continually working through our lives. I want to be one instrument God uses as he develops people into what he wants them to be.
Disclose: Disclose means “to allow something to be seen, especially by uncovering it.” For me, disclosure means taking off the mask I wear and helping people see more of who I am. This is something my kids have been challenging me on for years. One regret I have in my relationship with my long deceased father is that I feel I only barely knew him. I knew his actions, but not his thoughts and the influences that had shaped him. I can no longer do anything about that relationship, but I can work to express more of myself to the people I love. Disclosure is personal and vulnerable, but I look forward to the deeper relationships it brings.
Pray: This is my repeat word from 2019. One thing I’ve learned about prayer is that I stink at it when I’m trying to do it on my own. I need the inward work of the Holy Spirit to grow in my communion with God, as well as outward encouragement from my Christian community. As a ministry, Christianity Explored teaches that prayer is crucial because God’s role is the most important role in our lives (2 Corinthians 4:1-7). For that reason, we will soon introduce a small card to help you pray for five people in your life. I need tools like this, as well as the encouragement of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I give you permission to ask me this year about my prayer life.
Develop, disclose, pray– these are my three words to guide me in 2020. What are yours?
I encourage you to take some time at the beginning of this new year to ask yourself a few questions. What actions do you want to take in 2020? What three words best express your aspirations for the year ahead? Once you pick your words, post them where you will see them regularly. We are so prone to forget and lose focus. We need reminders, even if it’s just a sticky note on your mirror. Finally, consider sharing your three words with close friends, family, or Christian community. We all need help in our growth towards Christ and community is key to our development.
Wishing you all the best for 2020.