My Word For 2016 Is: Sensitive
"All my life, people have scolded me for having an excess of feeling, saying that I was too sensitive--as if one could be in danger from feeling too much instead of too little." Betsy Lerner in The Forest For The Trees
A sarcastic remark is made. My eyes well up with tears. Ugh, you’re so sensitive! They say to me. My family did have a good point. I was (and am) so sensitive. I used to cry so much when I was little that in Kindergarten I remember my teacher threatening to move my clip to the yellow face if I didn't stop crying. By age five, I was already a good girl perfectionist and fearful of getting in trouble or anyone being disappointed in me, so I stopped crying right away.
I have a love-hate relationship with sarcasm, a double-sided sword. It’s a humorous way to deliver a hard truth, yet the person delivering the sarcasm insists that it’s “just a joke” and to “lighten up" if the other party gets offended. I used to be really sarcastic as a kid like the rest of my family (excluding my dad), and I still can be. I think there’s a time and a place for sure. The Bible even uses sarcasm at times (see Zechariah 11:13). But sarcasm can be hard to balance with a sensitive spirit. While I was a Young Life leader, we were trained to limit our sarcasm, because to many fragile kids it can be misinterpreted as “scarcasm.” It sounds silly, but it has inevitably stuck with me. I’ve not only been called sensitive, but also meek. I thought these were insensitive insults, but the older I get, the more I can embrace these qualities as gifts.
One Word Resolution
I have had a “one-word resolution” for the past two years, and I have enjoyed the process of praying over these words and seeing them come to fruition. The first year was the word “trust," and that was the first year our daughter was born. I needed a lot of trust during that year. Trust for the Lord, trust in my husband, and trust in our family and friends to support us. I know a lot of moms say their "hearts exploded with happiness," but my heart felt like it was going to explode with exhaustion. It was the hardest year of my life! Last year I chose the word “humble," and it rang true every day in every respect when I would (and still do) clean up gross food and toddler mess on my hands and knees. I have never experienced something so hard and so joyful than parenting.
This year, I have decided I no longer want to see sensitivity as an insult but as a strength. I’m leaning into my sensitivity and choosing the word “sensitive.” I also see a sensitive spirit in my daughter, and it is absolutely melting. She has a very nurturing heart, and cried the other day when she read about a baby bird falling from the tree in "Rock A Bye Baby." I'm going to comfort her in those times, but also encourage that sensitivity, especially when it comes to listening to the Spirit and loving others.
Being sensitive also means engaging more of my senses at more times to live more fully alive. I want to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, who often speaks guidance and life and truth in small whispers that register below the background noise of my own thoughts.
Put The Cracker Down
Sensitive can be a bad thing when I’m taking myself too seriously, and sometimes all I really need to do is lighten up a bit. But recently, I have been paying more attention to that “still, small voice” that is the Lord leading me into life abundant, and I have prospered because of it.
I hear it in trivial times like when I’m about to reach for another cracker and the voice says, “Hey, you’re full. Don’t abuse that cracker by eating it. Yes, it’s just one cracker, but now you’ve heard this voice and disobeying me is a bigger deal than eating a cracker. I’m trying to save you from despising yourself and that extra cracker right now, which will probably lead to another cracker and another until you have also eaten a bowl of ice cream and your stomach hurts and you can’t sleep because of the sugar and then you’ll be angry in the morning at yourself and at your daughter for waking up early. So, take a deep breath, count to three, and let’s put the cracker down.”
And that trivial moment of listening to that voice that I initially think is my stomach talking to me is actually the Spirit protecting me from gluttony and helping me to respect my body and the food that I put in it. The more I hear and obey, the more I trust and the bigger my faith grows: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
Keep In Step
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:25
When we were dating in college, my husband and I took a salsa class for fun one night (my idea, but he lovingly showed interest too). The first song the leaders instructed was so slow and easy that it became boring. The second song was way out of our league. They went from beginner walking instruction to expert Dancing With the Stars salsa. The only thing we could do was the one thing we knew what to do with salsa, and that was dip. We ended up getting mad at each other and stepping on each other’s feet, and the instructor comes over and says, “you know, dancing is a very good indicator of one’s relationship.” Hmph! We both laughed it off but on the inside I wondered what that meant. For us, we kept dating and are still happily married with a child. We’ll show him! Dancing at 100mph is just not our thing.
However, I do think relationships are a dance, and keeping in step with the Spirit like Galatians 5:25 says takes practice. Being sensitive to the Spirit means staying close to His Word, tuning my senses towards God, letting go of control of my own life and trusting the Spirit to lead.
Truth be told, if I could have just trusted my dance partner more and stayed close enough to follow his lead instead of thinking I knew it all, we wouldn’t have had so many bruises on our feet. In the context of dancing, staying sensitive to the Spirit means to stay close by tuning my ears, eyes, and heart to where He is moving: "For we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7). Being sensitive means being in close enough proximity to not only hear His whisper but to also staying humble and trusting enough to heed it. It means knowing my partner well enough to know the sound of his voice: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27). It means getting lost in the fun of the dance letting go of my own power struggle to lead.
There is always a lead dancer, but the key to a good couple is trust. How much do I trust the leading of the Lord, and how can I keep my senses attuned to Him? Trust was my word the first year, humble was my word last year, and they both fit nicely into 2016. Trust the Lord, be humble enough to listen, and be sensitive to His lead. As long as I’m paying attention to the Lord and not trying to protect my own dignity, being sensitive is a good thing. It is risky, but I feel it’s the best way for me to focus this year.
Do you have a one word resolution this year?
Has anyone ever called you sensitive? How did it make you feel?
Can you relate to the dancing metaphor? If so, how?