In 2020, the word of the year for our church was LIFT. Lift our eyes, our hands, our voices, our expectations, our burdens, our community, our city. Not an easy word to live out. Lifting involves strength, often the kind we don’t have. But if you want to do more, you have to lift more—more weight, more often. It’ll tear your muscles over and over, then repair stronger than before. That’s how you get good at lifting.
Little did we know how heavy that year would be. How great the burden our city would bear; how much help the community needed to survive the pandemic. How low we would have to reach to pull up our expectations each day. How heavy our hands and eyes would get, how tired our voices, as we struggled to worship and trust God in the midst of chaos and fear.
For 2021, the word God gave our pastors was RELEASE. Release our past, our pain, our gifts, our dreams, our preconceived ideas of what we can do, where we’re headed, of who we are and who God is. This sounds way easier than LIFT but only on the surface. It often takes far more strength to release what we’re carrying than to pick it up in the first place.
We’re only halfway through, but what release there has been! I’ve seen decades-old scar tissue and identities shed to make space for truth. I’ve seen populations breathing free, released from pandemic restrictions. I’ve seen generosity bloom where scarcity ruled. I’ve seen long-held dreams become reality. I’ve seen idols shattered, bonds healed, and understanding dawn as white-knuckled control over ideas of God and self and purpose and love are released, leaving hands frozen into talons but open to be filled with better treasure.
It’s happened for friends and family. It’s happened for non-believers. It’s happened for me.
And in the middle of a conversation across thousands of miles and a Zoom window, the Holy Spirit reminded me that LIFT and RELEASE aren’t separate concepts. They’re linked.
Perpetually holding something—a continual LIFT—will exhaust you. Try holding your phone at arm’s length for as long as you can. Try it with shame or unfulfilled dreams. What seems light at first will eventually tremble and drag you to the floor.
You must release it in order to recover.
But being in a perpetual state of RELEASE doesn’t serve, either. You will purge your house, your life, your soul, your bank account, your dreams, your motivation, your relationship with God—everything you have and are—until eventually, you have nothing left. Not even an idea of what’s true.
You must lift again.
Building strength, whether in body or in spirit, is a steady, progressive cycle of lifting and releasing, lifting and releasing, lifting and releasing, over and over and over. You can’t do just one and expect to see (positive) results. One rep and then the next gets you where you’re going.
Lift your burden and release your gifts.
Lift your voice and release your secrets.
Lift your community and release your pride.
Lift your city and release your finances.
Lift your expectations and release the lies you believe.
Lift your hands and release your shame.
Lift your eyes and release your faith.
Maybe you can’t lift a lot right now. That’s okay. Strength isn’t just about breaking records on a single bench press (although you may sometimes need to Hulk out and lift triple your usual load for a bit). Lifting a small amount of weight many times not only makes you stronger, it also builds endurance. You start lifting better, hoisting bigger loads with greater ease for longer.
Lift and release. Lift and release.
And don’t forget the vital third step: recovery.
Plowing through rep after rep, set after set, day after day, without rest in between will exhaust you just as fast as that continual LIFT. Both your muscles and your soul need to recover from their labor, time to knit and heal and shape into something new, in order for you to draw on their strength again in the future.
Maybe that would be a good word for 2022: RECOVER.
Recover your purpose, your faith, your identity, your honor, your rewards. Recover what’s been lost. Re-cover the old ground of who you were with the new path God is leading you down. Recover the strength you need to build the God’s Kingdom as He builds yours.
Then reach down and lift again.
How does this cycle show up in your life?
What are you lifting, releasing, or recovering right now?
This post is part of Five-Minute Friday. This week’s prompt is RECOVER. If you’d like to join in the fun, click here!