A New Year's Tradition
I don’t know about New Year’s resolutions. Frankly, I’m a little skeptical of making them, even of making spiritual ones. Why? Because I tend to be a perfectionist, and I tend to measure how well or not well something went by how my own efforts were rewarded.
Instead, I have come to delight in a New Year’s tradition. For the past several years, I have asked the Lord to give me a word—literally, a word—to shape my coming year. And I’ve been awed and thankful that every year, he does indeed give me a word.
I’ve come to expect that this word will shape my coming year, will frame its experiences, so it’s prophetic. I can count on this word to shape my relationship with the Lord, so it’s spiritual. I promise him that I’ll try to lean into the word when challenges arise in the coming year—and choose for that good word instead of my fear or pride. And when something good happens, when he answers a prayer, I’ve noted that often, there’s a connection to my word for the year.
God Wants to Speak to Us.
This may all sound theoretical, so I’ll share with you my word for 2016. When I asked him for a word for 2016, he gave me “mystery.” I wrote that down on a post-it note in January 2016, and I kept it in my prayer journal, returning to it, just glancing at it, just letting it remain in the backdrop while I prayed, lived, worked, and spent time with friends and family throughout 2016.
This word became a great comfort to me in 2016. For example, in 2016, I heard the Lord call me to move from Maryland to Michigan. For almost half of 2016, I needed that word, which came to mean so many things to me as I turned it over in my mind. Here are some of them.
“Don’t be afraid to be grounded in the present season of your life; there are many unknowns for you: make your home in them. Sink your heels into the current circumstances in which you find yourself, for they are my gift to you. Dwell in the mystery.”
“You don’t fully know or understand or comprehend me or my ways, and yet, I ask you, make your dwelling in me, your Lord. Let your soul rest here. Seek me, search me, and make your home in me. Dwell in the mystery.”
Finally, I can’t count how many times something like this happened: I’m taking a walk, or I’m in a grocery store, or I’m making coffee. And in my mind, I begin to think anxious thoughts: I don’t know where I’m going to be living: What’s in my future? Just then, a breeze sweeps through me on the street; I pause before I check my grocery list one more time; the steam rises off my mug. I hear him whisper, “Dwell in the mystery.” It’s what he said to me many times this past year to bring peace to my heart.
Setting Ourselves Up to See God’s Hand.
What I like about this New Year’s tradition is that it’s mainly not about me—me improving myself, me working on myself, or anything almost to do with me.
It’s about him—about yielding to him, focusing on him, letting him lead me where he wants. It’s setting myself up to see him work in my life and in those around me. It’s about expecting him to show up and to knit my year together. It’s about giving him permission to help me keep perspective in the coming year—because, I’m going to need it.
Then, at the close of the year, I can reflect on this word and count all the ways he was faithful to me, all the gifts he lavished on me. Having a single word as a theme for my year gives me a way to look back on the year in gratitude.
It may seem like a lot of pressure to put on a single word! But it’s really not about the word itself; it’s about believing that God wants to and will speak to us, even through a single word.
What’s Your Word?
So I encourage you to sit down and pray for five minutes. Say to the Lord, “Please give me a word for the coming year.” That is all I do, every year. And he has never not given me a word.
I already have my word for 2017, and I’m excited to see how God uses it in the coming year.
Lynne can be found belting song lyrics from her car in Lansing, Michigan where she is a member of Work of Christ Community, a community of the Sword of the Spirit, and works as an editorial assistant for The Word Among Us. So she also hopes that you didn’t find a single typo in this article!