John 10:1-6 (NIV) says, “‘Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.’ Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.”
There are very few milestones in my life where I can reflect back and identify I clearly heard God’s voice. Just like the sheep, I know my Shephard’s voice. For me, God’s voice is a thought in my head that comes with a sense of peace and an understanding that God is guiding me and it’s my choice to follow him or carve out my own path. Peace comes when I pursue God.
Six Months Focusing on Pursue
When God gave me Pursue as my Word for 2020 I didn’t realize how important the choice to intentionally stay present and focused on this word would become. In January Pursue was focused on pouring care and preparation into the Pursue Coaches’ Wives retreat in partnership with Illini Land FCA. I’m so thankful we weren’t able to have the retreat when we originally wanted to as it would have likely been canceled. God went before us and gave us an amazing weekend with wonderful coaches’ wives.
In February Pursue drove me to reflect on past Bible study methods. Adoration, Inductive study through Priscilla Shirer’s 5 P’s and choosing a study for Lent to acknowledge the 40 days leading up to Easter all prompted me to pursue God in different ways.
In March my one word Pursue helped me identify the need to look to leaders who would shore up a strong foundation in challenging times. Matthew 7:15-20 (NASB) says, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.”
In April focusing on the word pursue kept me focused on loving my neighbor and consistent in my integrity. Even when others who follow Jesus and say they are prolife were publicly announcing that the time to protect all lives was over and hat it was time to get the country back to work, and that we needed to begin to accept death was going to happen and just move on I was focused on Jesus’ words rather than man’s.
In May when I helplessly watched hate choke the life out of a man the word I’d put into pursuing God all the months before kept me moving forward one step at a time. As I watched those I love internally process, mourn, and lament in necessary ways I was able to fill a gap and Be a Voice for the Voiceless and call others to as well.
In June my understanding of the word Pursue allowed me to mourn and lament with God. I knew God wept with us as we watched the injustice unfolding before our eyes. I knew God ached as we heard the lies once again to justify and minimize the bad behavior of the powerful. I knew God saw all his children and loved us all, longing for all of us to unify and reflect his actions and words. God’s call for unity, care for the weakest of humanity, generosity, truth, kindness, gentleness, and all the other fruit of the Spirit has never changed and never will.
I’m so thankful God goes before us and prepares us for challenging seasons. We may not always know why God is asking us to do something, however, our Good Shepard loves us and he is always intentional to care for us the best way possible. While we likely will prefer that God would remove difficult seasons he loves us too much to allow us to remain complacent.
I have no idea what the next month holds as I continue to focus on my one word Pursue and how it applies to my relationship with God, however, I do know that I will be better off for it in the end, even if I shed more tears.