For the past 15 years I have chosen a “word to live by” at the start of a new year. And that word really stays with me, through experiences, Scripture, and times of just being “lost in my thoughts.” Toward the end of 2020 (pandemic year!!) a certain word stayed in my heart and mind and I was certain that would be my 2021 word. One day, very close to the close of 2020, a new word popped into my mind and I couldn’t free myself from thinking about it. I pondered the many losses I, and all of us, experienced during 2020, and I thought of the many times I had to say, or heard, the word “no:” cancelled events, cancelled trips, graduations, weddings, funerals – you name it, the word was “no.” And I, we all, grieved.
This year, 2021, my word to live by is “YES” – first to God and what He places before me, yes to last minute plans and opportunities (very challenging for a Type Triple A personality), and yes to joy. And do you know what I have learned in these first three months of 2021? It’s not that easy to say yes and sometimes it takes lots of courage to take the yes plunge.
I recently read a fascinating story about a battle in England that took place in 1066. True, that’s a long time ago, but the story of that battle is important for us even in 2021. William, the Duke of Normandy, planned to invade England. England was well known for its incredible military – they won battles everywhere and on their own land they were totally in control.
What the British military did not know though, was that the Duke of Normandy had a secret – stirrups! Battles in those days took place on horses (not like the sophisticated military drones and equipment we have today). The British soldiers would ride their horses to the battlefield, dismount, and then run into battle. Time wasted, time lost. In this particular battle, the opposing Norman soldiers were faster because they were secure and strong in their stirrups. No time wasted, no time lost. England lost the battle. The Norman army conquered England.
They said yes to their leader and went into battle because of the stirrups? Well, because the security of the stirrups gave them the courage to say yes and the courage to fight and be victorious.
As I thought about this story, I began to understand that for me to have the courage to say ‘yes’ this year I need the strong and stable foundation that only God can give. And unless my courage is based on a firm foundation, my yeses will be flimsy and I will be scared.
In Joshua 3, the Israelites were all waiting to cross the Jordan River which, at that time, was at flood stage. What would you be thinking? Right, me too!! We read in verse 13 – “As soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord – the Lord of all the earth – set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.”
I have read that passage SO many times, but this was an aha moment – the priests had to put their feet IN the water before the waters separated and piled up in a heap. And I thought about this and realized that I would probably not have said “sure, that’s a yes, I’ll step into the water,” but rather would have bargained with God “how about You start to part the water and then I’ll take that first step.” But God doesn’t work that way, does He?
So, unlike William’s army whose security was found in the stirrups, the priests security and their firm foundation was found in the Lord of all the earth. Their courage was built on the firm foundation of trust in God which enabled them to say ‘yes,’ put their feet in the water and then they, and all the Israelites, crossed the Jordan on ‘dry ground’ (the passage says ‘dry ground’ twice – just in case we missed it the first time).
And I’ve been wondering what my firm foundation is. On what will I base my courage to say yes in 2021? Three thoughts have settled in my heart:
I can be courageous because: My hope comes from God.
“Be of good courage. And He will strengthen your heart, all you
who hope in the Lord.” Psalm 31:24
I can be courageous because: God is always with me.
“Be strong and courageous; don’t be afraid, for the Lord your
God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
I can be courageous because: God loves me.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that
whoever believes on Him will have eternal life.” John 3:16
My yes is based on the firm foundation of hope in God, His presence, and His love. This is my/our firm foundation for whatever opportunity or challenge we encounter in 2021. Let’s “stand in our stirrups,” move forward with courage, say yes, and thus delight in God’s goodness and plans for our lives.