A few years ago, the book My One Word started a trend. The concept is to choose a spiritually inspiring word in hopes that focusing on it will help you be intentional in experiencing it or pursuing it throughout the year.
I prayed about which word would help me grow, and I chose embrace. After contemplating what I hope this word would mean for me this year, I landed on a few ideas:
Definition of embrace.
Bing.com offers one definition for embrace as “to accept or support (a belief, theory, or change) willingly and enthusiastically.” That profound definition struck me, and I infused it with my own faith interpretation: “to accept or support what God has for you with all of your heart — willingly and enthusiastically.”
The thought of embracing what the Lord has for me personally, in my marriage and in life brings peace to my soul. When I trust Him wholeheartedly — even amid trials in my life or in my marriage — I can see that the Lord is using everything so that I reflect His image in my life. But believe me, this isn’t always easy.
Living this out!
Recently, Greg and I spoke at a New Year’s Eve family camp event in California. Two of our four children chose to join us; however, Garrison, our 16-year-old son, wasn’t feeling well and really wanted to relax, watch bowl games and root for his favorite team. I felt confident leaving him in his sister Taylor’s care at her home since she’s a nurse and her husband would be there to help.
Fast forward to New Year’s Day. The four of us returned and went to pick Garrison up at Taylor’s house. I was shocked when I saw my son. His neck had swollen to ogre-esque proportions, head melding into his shoulders. Taylor assured me the condition had arisen suddenly just that morning. Despite Garrison’s appearance and confession of feeling miserable, I was confident the swelling wasn’t too serious. But just in case, we took him to the children’s hospital urgent care. There the staff rushed him into the emergency room, and then, before we knew it, he was being transferred to the main campus emergency room. The medical professionals filed through the room to view my poor son. One of the doctors ordered a CT scan, and a friendly physician followed up on the scan results, politely informing Greg and me that Garrison needed surgery to mitigate an infection.
I don’t know that I’ve ever been more blindsided. I had no idea that he was suffering so much or that he needed that level of medical attention. Greg took the other two children home and then came back for Garrison’s surgery the next morning. He and I tag-teamed staying at the hospital with Garrison for four days.
It was during one of those long days at Garrison’s side that my word hit me — embrace. My first thought was Dear Lord, it’s only the first week of January, and this has been a lot to embrace. I admit that I didn’t embrace or accept what happened to Garrison immediately; however, as the week transpired, I saw how the Lord allowed this to happen and was blessing me amid the challenge. Our friends provided meals for all of us and child-care for our young daughter. And a surgeon whom we knew well “just happened” to be available to do Garrison’s surgery. Having community help and a great hospital outcome warmed me with God's peace and allowed me to experience the blessings He provided during the trial.
How about for you?
What can you embrace throughout this year? I encourage you to embrace the ups and the downs — enthusiastically, especially in your marriage. Choosing to embrace God in all aspects of my marriage — good and bad — helps me to be at peace that "all things" will all be woven together for good (Romans 8:28), knowing that the God of this universe has it all in His control.
Through embracing the journey of life together, we are confident that not only will we grow more into the image of Christ as individuals, but also that our marriage will eventually reflect Christ’s love just a little bit more.
I understand, there can be some pretty tough scenarios in marriage — pornography addiction, extramarital affairs, abuse or chronic conflict. I’m not saying that these situations are acceptable. However, I can tell you that amid your pain, discouragement and disappointment, you can trust God and embrace Him. As you walk through the difficulties, look for evidence of His presence and His provision.
Maybe your word for the year isn’t embrace; however, you can look for ways to trust God and embrace what He is doing in and through you and your marriage. The joys, pain and even mundane times will not be wasted.Erin Smalley serves as the strategic spokesperson for Focus on the Family's marriage ministry and develops content for that department.
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