I got a word of the year! The same day I said I wasn’t inspired to do one, God gave me one. It was one of those rare moments of getting a very direct and clear inspiration that definitely did not come from me. I was thinking of something else entirely, then, out of the blue, I was overcome by the message: HERE IS YOUR WORD.
Before I tell you what it is, a bit of backstory:
In our pre-kid days, Joe and I used to throw parties. Our building had a large deck on the 25th floor that included a pool and sweeping views of downtown Austin to one side, the state Capitol to the other. As much of an introvert as I am, you can’t not host events when you have access to a space like that for free.
Initially, the sole purpose of these events was to drink wine with friends. But as the parties got bigger and the guest list grew more diverse, we began to notice that amazing turns of events were starting at these parties: an unemployed friend would meet a manager who was hiring; someone would decide to pursue a long-dreamt-of hobby after running into an expert in the field; folks would learn about India and France and Iraq by chatting with our friends who are from there. A couple we know who’s been married for over 10 years met at one of these events!
Many of us were already connected virtually; we all spent plenty of time going back and forth over email and instant messenger throughout the weeks. Yet what these events hit home to us is that there is absolutely no substitute for the in-person connection.
Later, after my conversion, this would make even more sense: the God who made himself human obviously thinks that flesh-to-flesh meetings are pretty important. Instead of revealing himself to each person individually, he insisted that we get to know him through his Church — which requires hanging out with other people, in person.
Ten years ago, I understood intuitively that it’s always good to get people together, even if you can’t predict exactly what the benefits will be. Though I couldn’t have articulated it at the time, one of my unspoken life mottos was:
Hang out with people in person.
Ask them about their lives — real questions, not small talk.
Watch the magic happen.
But over the years this truth has gotten buried under other, more pressing truths (like, say, There is nothing more difficult in ALL THE WORLD than finding matching pairs of shoes for six young children). I’ve turned down more and more opportunities for in-person connections, to the point that my default answer to most invitations is no.
Some of that is a good thing. I need down time to do my mental decluttering. Also, as a wise friend once said, to say no is to protect the things you’ve said yes to.
But the no‘s are not coming from a place of prayerful prudence anymore; they’re now a knee-jerk reaction borne of a constant low-grade feeling of being overwhelmed. Especially when it comes to hanging out with kids involved, which exponentially increases the work and stress level for me, I say no without even thinking about it. No pausing to discern if this might be something God wants me to do, no second moment to consider the countless blessings I’ve seen from in-person interactions — just a flash of thinking about how the kids always end up screaming when it’s time to put on seatbelts, and I spit out a decline.
So here is the word that God has given me for this year:
Get out more. Remember the importance of in-person connections. Take a second to ask for guidance before I decide to stay home.
It’s been fascinating to see how God has developed my understanding of this word in the few days since I first received it. It’s bigger than just accepting invitations to playdates:
This weekend I was praying the mystery of Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth, and I imagined Mary hearing the same inspiration: GO.
Today I had to take my wild two-year-old to an adult podiatrist to have a sore on her foot examined since pediatrics was booked, and I dreaded the use of time and the potentially ear-shattering experience for the poor doctor. But then I was moved to consider the possibility that there’s a nurse out there who needs a kind word today, or maybe something about treating my daughter would inspire this doctor (perhaps to a vocation in a Carthusian monastery). And as I thought about all the little possibilities that could come from this seemingly inconvenient trip, I heard it again: embrace this opportunity to connect with others, no matter how mundane it may seem. GO.
As I was typing this I found out that I have to take our one-eyed cat to the vet during my prime productive time tomorrow. Just when I was about to launch into my well-rehearsed soliloquy titled I CAN NEVER GET ANYTHING DONE AROUND HERE!!!!, I remembered that this theme for the year isn’t only about leaving the house per se; it’s about putting my heart into all opportunities — both chosen and unchosen, both exciting and mundane — to interact with other people.
Considering that I’m an introvert to the extent that my ability to enjoy long periods alone in silence borders on a superpower, this won’t be the easiest word to embrace. But it feels right, and I look forward to seeing what God has in store for my year of GO.
. . .
UPDATED TO ADD A BONUS STORY:
Esteemed Christian author and fellow Austinite Jennie Allen has a new book coming out, and I heard that she was hosting a book signing last night. After I wrote the draft of this post, it occurred to me that stopping by her event would be a great way to support a local author while embracing my new word. I was excited! I read the location of the event as being “Costco,” and I was about to blow up Twitter with jokes like “@jennieallen I’ll be the one pushing a shopping cart full of Cheez Whiz and Doritos!” and “@jennieallen Don’t mind me if I have a jumbo package of toilet paper in one hand while you sign my book!”
ALAS, my incredible lack of attention to detail struck again, and the book signing was actually at Contigo, a trendy eastside restaurant.
Contigo. Not Costco.
I need to discern whether God meant for the full message to be, GO…to a remote cave and never come out again.