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Becoming Teachable: Word of Intention for 2024

Like many I’ve ditched the idea of New Year’s Resolutions for an Inspirational Word of the Year. I’ve done this for many years now, and I’ve loved the focus and intentionality that this method can bring. The word-of-the-year often becomes a way that I steer my devotional study and my prayers. This year my focus word or word of intention is “teachable.”

My need to be taught.

You may agree with me that this is a strange word-of-the-year! As usual a hiccup in my life journey dropped this word into my lap.

I come from a family of teachers, and every thing that happens in life looks like a lesson to me – relationships, reading the Bible, studying literature, prayer, homemaking, raising children, being a wife, exploring nature, history, science – anything really. I want to be the best version of myself and I assume that everyone else wants that same thing. Therefore if I find a solution, an insightful thought or a better way, I assume that everyone else wants to learn it. And that I should teach them.

Spoiler alert: this is not often the case.

One of the problems with this perspective is that with so much to learn I get in a hurry. I don’t always allow truth to penetrate my own perspective and change myself before I want it to change someone else.

Maybe this is partly because of my love of learning. Maybe I’ve become stuck in mother-mode, that busy season of downloading all your knowledge on every subject into your progeny. But there comes a point where too many words results in being less heard. This year may be my year to shut up.

The log and the speck

Over Thanksgiving a situation developed that brought to attention my need for a teachable spirit. I won’t go into the details (because they involve others who don’t want their stories told). But I knew something was wrong and hurtful and I chose that path anyway in an attempt to justify myself. Isn’t that ironic? I disproved my virtue by trying to prove it.

Little girl peeking out from behind large red leaf. Text of Matthew 7:3-5 appears over the picture.

Like Jesus’ teaching about a speck and a log, I was trying to correct someone else while overlooking my own plank. In this lightbulb moment I realized that “teachable” needed to be my word for this year.

Learning from the Master Teacher

I really do love Jesus and discovering more about his ways and his wisdom. And I love the kindness of his correction which is so different from my own. 

In assuming a teaching role in the lives of my adult children, in a leadership role in ministry and as a blogger, my method of presenting truth is often less beguiling than Jesus’. And honestly, the reason may be that there’s a little bit of self-justification in my spirit. In reflection recently I’ve acknowledged that trying to prove myself may be a strong motivator in my life. And even though I want to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” I may be attempting to do this through convincing proofs. Which is backwards and counter-productive. It’s like my attempt to prove my virtue with my words while my actions disprove it.

As I’ve been reading through the gospels lately, it occurred to me that Jesus was never trying to prove himself. Or even prove who God was. He was just on a mission to demonstrate who the Heavenly Father is by copying his Father. Jesus wasn’t insecure like I am. He knew who he was/is and who the Father is. Justifying himself was never his motivation.

Closeup of the palms of old, workworn hands. "Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he seees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.

There were several times that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day went to him demanding proof. And Jesus didn’t answer their demands. (See Matt 16:1-3, Mark 8:11-12.) If I had been a disciple, I would have hoped for his proof. To prove that they were wrong and that I was right for following Christ. I think about how they hoped to trap Jesus by bringing a woman who had been caught in adultery. If Jesus were trying to prove that he was himself God and the righteous Judge of the Earth, would he have responded in convicting mercy as he did? (You can read the story in John, chapter 8.)

Learning Love

But Jesus’ mission was to reveal the Father. To do and say what he saw the Father do and say. Jesus did not need to prove himself. God never needs to prove himself. And so Jesus’ response was truer justice, disabling mercy, and overwhelming love. There were and always will be proofs of his divinity. But, in a way, they exist by the very virtue that they are unnecessary. And yet we always want more. There will always be a need for faith. I think faith is so valuable to our Father that he would rather leave room for this virtue than to cover every need for it.

To really advance the kingdom of God, is it possible that we need to stop trying to prove God’s deity for him? Because proving God’s case often interferes with demonstrating his nature and living a life that he rules. I’m beginning to think that the demonstration of God’s kingdom in our own lives, governed by the supernatural nature of love, is all the proof that anyone could ever really require. The goal is faith working through love, not a theology proved.

A woman in a field behind a seated woman in a wheelchair. Both are looking away into the sunlight. "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

And so that is one thing that I want to learn in my teachable state this year. How to relax my need for self-justification, and to live a life that honors God by demonstrating his love. If I’m secure in who I am, and if I’m secure in who Christ is, I can let go of the need for proof. Yes, I want others, especially my family, to know and believe in God. But instead of convincing them with defenses, reasons, witness and logic, what if I proved God by convincingly demonstrating his love? Truth doesn’t cease to be true for my lack of defending it. But if I’m too busy proving truth and grace rather than living truth and grace, then I’m disproving it in the process.

Listening/ Hearing

In order to be teachable, I also need to become better at listening. Like me, do you ever miss part of a conversation as you anticipate your own response? I’m going to need to switch gears and learn to really listen and hear.

One way I’m planning to put this into practice is in my role as a regional coordinator for Moms in Prayer. In my state, I help to train and support leaders who gather women to pray for children and schools in one quadrant. I realized that previously I have been pouring out to others what I myself would want to receive in the way of support and training. My goal for the teachable me in this new year is to instead learn from my leaders how to best help and support them. I’m hoping to meet with my leaders soon. The old me would have developed a plan for them to join with me in my own goals. The new, teachable me plans to draw out from them their own plans and goals and to listen to how I can help them.

I’m hoping to learn to listen more than I speak. I’m hoping to be able to ask better questions so that I can more truly hear the heart of others.

Humility and Gratitude

Becoming teachable will mean laying aside pride to take up humility. It’s the opposite of defense and self-justification. Being teachable dictates that I receive instruction and correction rather than give it. And being teachable requires me to be vulnerable and correctible.

Being teachable does not mean that I will believe everything I hear. And it does not mean that I will forgo making judgments on what correction I should accept. But as someone who is more teachable, I hope I will begin to learn when to speak and when to be quiet. And as I grow better at listening, I hope that I will more correctly discern how God wants me to share his love in each situation. I realize that sometimes the best love will be to teach and correct. But for me, I’m finding that pride can cause me to jump to conclusions. Humility causes me to be more cautious and more dependent on God to instruct my responses and actions.

Bucking the system

One of the burdens I’ve adopted is my desire to influence people to follow Jesus. I believe with all my heart that this is the purpose of every Christian. But I see that sometimes this drive can keep me from coming to Christ myself with a teachable spirit. I can easily get caught up in trying to change the world rather than let Jesus change me.

The whole vision for this website is somewhat ironic in this regard. My desire with Realizing Home is to encourage people to find their created and creative purposes, to learn through failure, to get off the internet and live real life, to be happy and content at home, and to discover who they are by discovering their Creator. That’s why I love to share about faith, problem solving and creative processes, beautiful successes and failures, and wonderful food which serves and blesses everyone! I hope that I can encourage others to be at home, create home, and recognize that with our Father we are truly at home. But without an audience my work accomplishes nothing.

So what is the blogger solution? Become a social influencer by mastering social media. Which for me would mean becoming what I hope others will avoid – living a social life that deprives us of real life. Living the virtual rather than the real and tangible. 

I’ve wrestled with this, and into my internet presence I welcome the idea of becoming teachable! I’ll have to continue to see what this means for my posts and my social media. What does God want to teach me here? Being teachable may mean bucking the system and not following the call to connect daily on social media. Or it may mean the opposite – that I need to listen to others and follow their recommendations on how to connect with readers.

Will you be teachable

All this to say, I’m expecting my word-of-the-year “teachable” to develop some wisdom in my life, to train me in love, and perform some much needed repair to my blind spots! I do hope to listen better to others, but ultimately the Holy Spirit is the one who I will look to for my education. By being teachable, I don’t intend to accept all that everyone is trying to teach me. But I also won’t feel the need to play Jesus to others. I want to make room for him to do that.

Dove flying with black background. "But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you."

Although I realize that your own strengths and weaknesses may run counter to my own, I pray that we will all grow closer this year to the purposes that God intended for us. You may not be challenged at all by humility and listening, but rather need to step into a new role of teaching and speaking. “Teachable” may not be your word of intention, but I hope that you will learn all the new lessons that the Lord brings into your life in 2024. I hope that like Mary you will sit at Jesus’ feet rather than miss his lessons while serving him your own version of ministry.

What do you think of my New Year’s word? Do you have an inspirational word-of-the-year? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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