ADV’ANCE, verb intransitive

1. To move or go forward; to proceed; as, the troops advanced.

2. To improve, or make progress; to grow better, greater, wiser or older; as, to advance in knowledge, in stature, in wisdom, or in years.

3. To rise in rank, office, or consequence; to be preferred, or promoted; as, to advance in political standing.

Source: http://webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/advance

I have never before received my word for the new year so far in advance. Coincidence? No, not at all. This morning as I was driving my son to school I simply offered the thought in prayer, “What will my 2021 word be?” Fast as lightning the word ADVANCE came to my thoughts without hesitation and with such force I knew. I knew it was to be my word for 2021.

I understood the idea immediately. 2020 has been a year of shrinking, tighter and smaller worlds, losing freedoms. It has been a divisive year with passions rising on every side of the issue. Some of us, having lived under socialist regimes in other places, recognized some unwelcome and familiar patterns and our alarm grew with each new restriction. Despite knowing my hope and my security is not in our government, nor in the political systems that bring it about, I do admit more than once fear began to rise in my heart. Had my family sacrificed so much to escape to a place of freedom only to be brought back under the clutches of socialism?

Yes, 2020 has felt very restricting. Regardless of how you feel about the pandemic and its shutdowns, restrictions, and changes all of us have had our worlds shrink. It feels like we have lost ground. When ADVANCE interjected into my thoughts so forcefully and quickly it jolted me. It was not the word I would have picked had I been given the opportunity to choose one myself over the next few weeks. It seems to stand in such stark contrast to what 2020 has been. I knew. I just knew this was God’s word for me for 2021. I don’t know what it means exactly and how it will play out in every area of life, but this I know: it will.

One area seems to be a given. I have applied for Grad School to finally begin work on my Master’s Degree in Counselling Psychology. This was the goal line I had when I started my university education back in 2000. Twenty-one years later I am beginning the last lap of that journey. Or at least the last lap that I have planned, but I’m not sure now it is the end of the journey. My advance has come in spurts and taken much longer than I had anticipated. If I had my way and stuck to my plans I would have completed my education in 2007. That’s not how it worked out. 

Advances are like that sometimes. We would love for them to be a steady forward motion with little resistance and little effort. Advances don’t come through comfort. Advances come through adventure and trial and sacrifice and pain. Advances sometimes seem small and other times seem to be reversals. Advances don’t fit neatly and perfectly into an ordered life. They are not wall-flowers, nor discreet. Advances make a mess, take energy and effort, and sometimes leave you bloodied. Advances come at a cost. Sometimes at great costs. What I know without a shadow of a doubt: advances are never mediocre. They are not safe. 

Advances blaze like the word itself did this morning. They disrupt the routine and the quiet. Advances rock the boat and force change on the willing and unwilling alike. Advances are not always welcomed by those who are caught in their orbit. Advances can leave us wounded and wound those we care about. Never because we want to hurt them, but because our enemy is determined not to allow us to advance. Advances come with resistance. By their very nature they have to. It’s not an advance if it doesn’t take effort. 

This one thing I know: 

I don’t depend on my own strength to accomplish this; however I do have one compelling focus: I forget all of the past as I fasten my heart to the future instead. I run straight for the divine invitation of reaching the heavenly goal and gaining the victory-prize through the anointing of Jesus. So let all who are fully mature have this same passion, and if anyone is not yet gripped by these desires, God will reveal it to them. And let us all advance together to reach this victory-prize, following one path with one passion. Philippians 3:13-16 TPT

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