Written by Rick Shafer, Executive Director of Faith Formation at Port City Community Church

This year I will be receiving my 17th word. I say receiving because they have been God’s grace in my life. The not-so-well-concealed secret of My One Word is that they pile up. My word ‘Relish’ (2014) was a 365-day adventure in seeing and experiencing God’s goodness, much like tasting a fine wine — savoring the bouquet and all the flavor notes. This is something I want to practice forever. I’m still challenged by my word ‘Speck’ (2011), which confronted my tendency (and an ever-present cultural expectation) to judge others inside and outside the Church.

One year, I took hold of the word ‘Tend’. Here’s a little background. As a kid, I was raised to chase after the American Dream. Before 1994, visibility and upward mobility defined my days and nights. Having just climbed one rung on the corporate ladder, how could I get to the next one? I was a believer, but at age 34, God shook me with a question, “Do you trust me?” Wait, I thought we had already settled that. “Yes, Lord, you know that I trust you.” It was then that God set before me a fork in the road. I inched forward and — gradually — changed priorities became a changed life.

Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me? Feed my sheep.” He asked the same of me. This became the quiet work of pastoring pastors. Pastoring missionaries. Eventually, pastoring nonbelieving bosses, customers, colleagues, and employees. It’s sacred work, but I could never shake the sense of being an imposter. There might be a few monkeys in my family tree, but I don’t know of any pastors there. And my training was in engineering, not pastoral ministry. My head and hands were doing the work, but my heart was unconvinced. I felt unprepared. Deficient. Was I just play-acting?

It was into this uncertainty that my word ‘Tend’ arrived. Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me? Tend my sheep.” When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. It was time to finally make peace with my place. Over the following twelve months, God used my word to help me settle into His vision for me. Again and again, He confirmed the lasting value of tending people, work that’s often inconspicuous and has no endpoints. He helped me lay down my old identity-value-scales of attention, effectiveness, productivity, and wins. And He showed me that I could depend on His strength to shine through my weakness. Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us. That year, my heart began to catch up to my head and hands.

Sometimes I still run past God’s goodness, unaware. Sometimes I get judgy. And periodically, I question my pastoral role. But words like ‘Relish’, ‘Speck’, and ‘Tend’ have become 16 corrective lenses in my life — ever-present trainers that coach me back. And forward. Now it’s time to start with Word 17. (What will it be? You’ll have to find me and ask. 😀)

• Do you see your One Word as a grace? Do you receive and take hold of your word as a gift from God? 

• Who has God made you to be? What has He given you to do? Are you reluctant? Would you feel like an imposter? How would our Father speak to that?

Father, we pause to acknowledge Your greatness and goodness. We speak to our doubts and fears: “My confidence shall be in my God and His grace”. Allow us to see ourselves as You see us, to know ourselves as You have made us. Help us live quiet lives, free of striving and grasping. And grace us with guides to coach us on the road You have laid out before us. All of this for Your glory and for the sake of others. Amen.