I’m not sure how common it is to pick a word for the year, but it’s something that I’ve started doing in recent years. Last year my word was “trust,” and considering the circumstances of 2020 I would say this word was fitting. So, with the anticipation of the new year, I began praying through what my word would be, and I landed on the Hebrew word, shema.

For context, shema in English is translated as “listen” or “hear,” but it also has historical significance among the Jewish people. The shema is a prayer from the Torah, or book of law, and it is recited at different times of the day. It is called the shema because it is the first Hebrew word in the prayer.

Hear [shema], O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

Deuteronomy 6:4

As I said earlier, the English translation is “hear” or “listen.” However, something happens when words are translated; they lose their original meaning and intent. Shema doesn’t simply mean to listen or to hear something. Instead, it means to listen, understand what is being said, and then respond in action. In other words, hearing and obeying are tied together; you can’t do one without the other.

Before I moved overseas, I had a lot of questions. If I’m honest, I also had a lot of fears and doubts. However, through this word, shema, and the prayer it represents in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, God in His lovingkindness reminded me that I am simply instructed to listen and obey his commands. What does He command? Verse 5 explicitly tells us!

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

Deuteronomy 6:5

In short, we are to love God with all of our affections and mental decisions, all of our physical being, and if we have anything left over, we are to love God with that. Now, I can’t say that my questions magically disappeared, or that my fears and concerns were removed after I read this. However, as I started to think about what God was saying through His word, my focus started to shift. Instead of focusing on what I didn’t know, He was reminding me to act on what I did know. God reminded me to listen to His voice and simply respond in obedience by loving Him and loving those He started to place around me.