The Power of a Single Word

desultory (adj.) lacking a definite plan or pattern; haphazard; aimless; scattered

Has a single word ever arrested your attention? A new word. A familiar word. A word that felt appropriate to the moment.

I am fascinated by words. A string of characters pulled together can open up new horizons of meaning if we pause to listen.

This happened the other day. A word, new to me, appeared twice in a short span of time. First, in the writing of Eugene Peterson (The Jesus Way). Second, in the writing of Nelson Mandela (Long Walk to Freedom).

The word was "desultory." The black ink on the page was a floodlight, illuminating the troubled waters about me. The word halted my movement; arrested my attention; called to my inner wonder.

This was a word for me today. 

The time-tested wisdom collection in the book of Proverbs tells us: "Without vision the people perish."

I know it's perhaps a bit risky to talk about my life out in the open like this, but this word - desultory - was a description of how I've felt about my life for the past several years. As far as it depends upon me to live with vision, I've felt more like a blind man grasping for anything to hold on to. Even in digital space, I easily flit to and fro from one interesting article to another rabbit hole, giving my attention to anything that might tickle my imagination. Our society is a veritable buffet of copious options of what we can do with our time and our lives.

An innocuous word in a book, twice over, served as a billboard for hire by the Spirit of God to halt my attention and give me pause regarding my tendency to wander.

But, even still - grace.

Has my proclivity to wander and struggle to live within the guardrails of a clear vision handicapped my Father? No!

He promises, even still, "that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." (Romans 8:28-30)

I can be "confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:27)

It was through Christ's perfect obedience and commitment to the Father's vision by which he gifted me with his abundant life and a rebirth as a new creation in God's eternal and unshakable future. 

So, thank you, "desultory" for reminding me of the importance of living intentionally and with lasting vision during my short sojourn on this earth. 

But, unending gratitude goes to my King who fixed his eyes upon the joy set before him and endured the cross so that I can - however weakly - have a sure hope that He is The Way into the new heavens and new earth. There is nothing desultory, haphazard or random about his good will. His is always the Way of Love. His is always the Way of Life. His is always the Way of Truth. And, I can trust that he is leading me.

Again, the time-tested wisdom of Proverbs assures us today:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.


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