Word of the Year 2020: Till
This might seem like an unconventional choice. Why not choose “cultivate”, which is essentially the same meaning? Why not choose something more modern like “Dig deep” or some other more catchy phrase? I don’t have a neat and tidy answer for that, which is fitting since the process of tilling is not neat and tidy either.
My focal verse for the year is Hosea 10:12, which reads, “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that He may come and rain righteousness upon you.” As I read though Scripture last year, this verse stuck out to me and I jotted it down. The story of Hosea is such a clear image of redemption and steadfast love, which is so hope-filled for me when I choose to return to my sin over and over. But just as Hosea welcomed back his unfaithful wife, the Lord welcomes me back after every misstep and detour away from Him. The Lord is gracious and loving and forgiving. This verse spoke to me of the need to “break up my fallow ground” to prepare for the great harvest the Lord has for my life.
Tillage is the process where the farmer cultivates or stirs up the soil so it is best able to produce a plentiful harvest. This can be done manually with the hands, with small tools, or with great tools with sharp edges to cut deep into the hardened soil. This is a process of preparation of the soil for the growth to come. The soil needs to be agitated to be fruitful. So also, the soil of my heart needs to be prepared and agitated so that deeper spiritual roots can form and the harvest will be plentiful. The Word of God has been sown into the fertile soil of my heart, but I desire more and more to grow in wisdom and understanding of God and His ways. So I enter this new year with the focus of tilling my heart soil to regenerate and renew what has been planted within me.
In agricultural language, culture refers to the specific development of the product to perfection, often this occurs through the work of many generations. Isn’t this exactly the work of the believer? James 1:4 says, “And let steadfastness have it’s full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” What is the perfection we strive towards? Not perfection by worldly standards, but “you therefore must be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). We are on mission to grow in godliness and to put on the very nature of Christ onto ourselves. We remove the influence of our present culture and we take steps to culture ourselves in the Lord. This is the work of the Spirit through the lifetime of the believer. As mothers, we must also teach our children to enter into this work. We desire for our family heritage to be one of walking humbly with our God, but our children must come to know God first. This is why the mission of motherhood is so worthy and weighty. As I till the soil of my heart, I seek to soften myself so my boys see me desiring God and that the fruit of His Spirit will overflow from me. May my influence direct them to Jesus and may they seek Him for themselves. May the culture of our family be striving towards the development of perfection in the Lord.
I considered the word “cultivate” as opposed to “till”. The word cultivate has gotten a lot of attention in recent years and it is a very purposeful and driven word choice. The process of cultivating the crop bed kills weeds but allows the crop plants to grow. This is the beauty of the work of the Spirit. The refining fire believers walk through will burn away all the ungodly and strengthen all that is holy. Spiritual cultivation may be painful as those weeds are plucked out, but may I anticipate the flourishing the Lord intends for my life. He desires my good for His glory and that includes removing everything that diverts my attention away from Him. This next year I hope to lean in hard to the cultivating the Spirit will work in my life and pursue righteousness above all other creature comfort.
One last focus for the word “till” over the year 2020: I hope to keep eternity in mind and not waste my “until”. Believers have the great privilege of being made righteous at the time of salvation. Once and for all, Christ redeemed our souls and claimed us as His own at the cross. But we must live in this world and patiently wait for when we enter glory with Christ. Until that time, we have the privilege of growing in faith and godliness while joining God in His work of proclaiming the gospel to all people. So this year as I till my soil, I endeavor to not grow weary in the work set before me. “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6 NASB)
The seeds have been planted, the fruit has been growing, but I desire more of the Lord. I desire a deeper knowledge, a richer understanding, and a fuller harvest. So this year will be a year focused on tilling my soil, preparing for the growth God has for me, and making the most of my time until the Lord returns or call me home.