For the past several years I’ve chosen a “word for the year.” Each word is meant to serve as a rudder for the year, a way to focus my attention and direct my inner life. Sometimes I very specifically sense God’s leading in the word; such was the case of “Listen” in 2011 and “Encourage” in 2013. Both of those words started with quiet whispers from God that were continually confirmed throughout the year. Words — and years — like that feel very successful.
But other times I’ve chosen words that simply seemed to fit my spiritual needs at the time, as has been the case for the last two years. In 2015 I chose the word “Peace,” mainly for the warm fuzzy feeling it gave me. I just wanted a little bit of rest. Some peace and quiet. But throughout that year, God peeled back the layers of my illusory peace and revealed relationships in my life that were not actually at peace. My year felt like a failure until right at the end, when relational reconciliation emerged as an eleventh-hour gift from the Father.
Maybe that year wasn’t such a flop after all, I thought. It gave me the confidence to choose a word again. So in 2016, I chose the word “Steady.” I wanted to have steadier emotions no matter the amount of stress I was under, and regardless of which day of the month I was on. I thought this was a great goal. I wanted to be like Caroline (Ma) Ingalls – wise, calm, and gentle in all circumstances.
Basically, I wanted to be perfect.
And it was a complete flop. Right from the very beginning of the year, my emotions were more volatile than ever, and my emotional stability was rather, um, nonexistent. I wanted to cheat and switch words halfway through the year, but instead I chose to ignore the fact that I had ever chosen a word. I went about the second half of my year attempting to survive over-scheduled weeks and power-outaged days, emotional instability and all.
I so skillfully forgot about my dreams of steadiness that when I began processing this year at the beginning of December, I couldn’t initially remember what my word had been. I racked my brain a while and then remembered: Steady. That’s what it was. I had wanted to be emotionally steady. A rock, a foundation, a cornerstone for my family. Always cheerful, happy, and helpful. I’d wanted to be, you know, perfect.
But I was, disappointingly, more unsteady than ever. At least, on the surface I was more unsteady than ever. When I paused to look deeper, I was surprised to see aspects of my life that had stabilized:
- My belief in the Bible as God’s Word.
- My participation in truly life-giving community.
- My commitment to homeschooling as the right choice for our family.
I didn’t ever manage to perfect myself as I had hoped. I’m still an emotional train wreck. (Though perhaps emotional perfection was too unrealistic an aspiration?) I tried and failed to tread water at the surface of my life, but throughout the year God was working to give the deeper structures of my life more strength and support. Looking back now, I learned — and am continuing to learn — so many things this year, but chief among them is this:
When we fail to measure up, God is sufficient.
And when we waver, He still stands firm.
I don’t know if your year was a massive failure or a grand success. Perhaps you had a bit of both. Or maybe your year was somewhere in between those two extremes. No matter what your year held, what I want all of us to remember as we enter this next year is that Jesus Christ is sufficient. He is the foundation upon which our faith rests. He is the Person in whom we live and move and have our being.
So will I choose a word for this coming year? I don’t know yet. What I do know is that whatever this coming year holds, the Christ, the Son of the Living God, will be in it.
Did this year feel like a flop for you?
What has been your experience of choosing a “word for the year”?
- “Fernweh” and “Heimweh” — words for the one who’s far from home - January 20, 2017
- If your year has been a flop - December 28, 2016
- I’m Not Very Good at Gratitude - November 22, 2016
- How Buddhism Taught Me to Love My Neighbors Better - October 28, 2016
- Conflict and Our Dustlikeness - September 22, 2016