I have participated in the #OneWord365 movement for a few years now. Instead of making a long list of (likely to be abandoned) resolutions, you choose simply one word to guide your year.

There may be resolutions or goals which  roll up to that vision but the word is meant to give you freedom and a sense of discovery and focus, to leave a bit of room to be surprised. I’ve often viewed my One Word in a partnership with the Holy Spirit: I bring my own perception of what my “word” will mean in my life but inevitably I am surprised by what God had in mind with that word and how that will come to fruition in my life. I often take time throughout the year to study the word or the concept it represents, to pray through it, to write through, to look for ways to embody it, to let it be the answer when I’m perplexed.

Some years have been more powerful or life-changing than others. One year in particular changed me profoundly – that was the year I chose the word “fearless.” Other years, maybe not so much visible change happened in my life to outside eyes but there was ground-work laid in my heart that lead to other growth. (In years past, I’ve also grappled with Enough, with Light, with Moments, with Abundant Life, last year’s Hold Fast among others.)

I have a sneaking suspicion that stumbling across one’s “word” for a year is similar to how we first find our type in the Enneagramyou know you’ve found your word/type when you kind of wish it was any one but that one. (Or was that just me? #Type9)

I have found that there are multitudes and layers of discipleship and transformation hiding within our words and some part of our spirit recognizes it and while we are drawn to it, we are also fearful of what it may mean in our lives. We know it could change us or the lives we lead. What pet sins or prejudices or falsehoods will be revealed by this pursuit? What seeds will be planted in our lives? What habits will change? What relationships will need to shift? What systems will be disrupted in our lives? What will this mean for how we show up in our right-now lives with our families or our communities or our churches or our world?

As this year has been drawing to a close, I have prayed and journaled, contemplated my life as it is now and where I want it to be, and had long (sometimes tearful) conversations with my husband about what we want to see in our lives in the coming year and in our next chapters of life. And one word kept rising to the top for me and I kept batting it away.

It’s not sexy enough, it’s not “world-changing’ enough, it’s not really exciting. I wanted to choose another word.

But I know my word for the year, I’ve known it all along – it is abundantly clear in the way that you know the truest things in your heart – and I am challenged by it already.

One Word for 2017 :: Sarah Bessey

My word for 2017 is FAITHFUL.

I’ve grappled with my evangelical hero complex pretty publicly (the entire last chapter of my most recent book Out of Sorts was about that very thing) and over the years, I’ve learned the hard way that radical faith looks a lot like faithfulness even if to the eyes of the world or even the eyes of the church, it isn’t quite enough.

It is in faithfulness that true discipleship is lived out.

It is in faithfulness that we are transformed into Christlikeness. (And if there is one thing I think we all need more of in this old world, it’s people who love and follow Jesus.)

It’s in our faithful presence in the world that we bear witness to the resurrection and to what that means for our daily walking-around lives.

It’s in faithfulness that we parent our children, that we build our marriages with love, that we serve the people whom God has given to us, that we show up in our communities with joy and service.

It’s in faithfulness however uncelebrated or unseen that we change the world for real.

I’ve got a long list of places where I am longing to see some new life – not only in my own personal self but in the church and in the world. And I think that this change won’t be the work of an instant, not yet anyway. It won’t be the work of snapping my fingers or clapping my hands and “ta-da!” I think the work both in my own life and in the world which our God loves will turn withsteady faithfulness.

I tend to want instant results – don’t we all? In some unreasonable non-logical part of myself, I think that doing something well at least once should count. Right? I did it once really well! Magically everything should change because of my effort! I eat well for three days and go for two long walks and wonder why I’m not already at my goal weight. I offer instruction one time to my children and wonder why they don’t automatically take it to heart and let it change their behaviour ever after. I go to church like a back row spectator and decide that it’s a waste of time. We show up to do a bit of good one time and then go home wondering why it didn’t last or make a long-term difference in the lives of the poor or the desperate.

That’s not how it works, is it? It’s in steady faithfulness that we see health in our bodies and in our spirits and in our minds. It’s in steady faithfulness that we see our children respond to discipline and instruction.

It’s in steady faithfulness that we are grafted into a community of believers.

It’s in faithful presence that we begin to see transformation and the long game of justice and peace for our world take root.

It’s in faithfulness that evil is opposed, over and over, because the faithful continue to rise over and over and over.

It’s in faithfulness that our capacity for goodness and justice and peace and love is increased, daily practice, daily faithfulness.

But even there we know and live by the greater truth that “God has not called us to be successful, only to be faithful.” (Mother Teresa)

I’ve been particularly challenged by a teaching of Jesus’ – he said in Luke 16:10, “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones.”

I suspicion that becoming more like Jesus has more to do with how we show up in our right-now lives, in our daily disciplines and in our choices, than it does with a fit of one-time spectacular-ness.

Rats.

I know the places where I need to practice faithfulness. And this is no esoteric “idea” – there is teeth and dirt and time and habits to this word of the year, I know that now. I will find so many opportunities to be faithful to the Lord, to my own self, to my family, to my season of life, to my calling, to my path, to my ideals, to my friends, to justice and mercy. I have some smaller goals that roll up under that in terms of my body, mind, spirit, work, and family but the theme for all of it is “faithful.” 

I’m wondering how faithfulness will transform me. I think I might be surprised by what will happen in me and through me if I stop trying to be successful and instead seek more intentionally to be faithful.

And I have a hunch that God will surprise me with faithfulness. I don’t even know what that means but I know that I am only able to be faithful because God is faithful. This is something upon which I have staked my life – that his unfailing love and faithfulness is his very nature towards us.

And so this might be a year when I think my call is to faithful but then it turns around and is all about how God is faithful instead.

I’m only ever bringing what I have to the feet of Jesus, however poor my offering, and waiting for fire to descend anyway.

2017: Faithful.

How about you? What is your One Word?

 

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  • msbernice7

    I think my word is going to be Connect. As in connect with God, my husband, other people, my fitness and my creativity

  • Amanda Faulkner

    Sarah, I don’t typically adhere to resolutions or annual goals or intentions—it’s usually just a way for me to set myself up for disappointment. But your annual words have always been intriguing to me. While I’ve yet to adopt one for myself, the words you wrote for this year resound so strongly with what has been ruminating in my heart and mind these last months. As I wait with some anxiety over the tiny life I’m growing right now….faithfulness has taken new meaning. I lost two babies in 2015 and 2016. Faithfulness means not giving in to despair and fear. Faithfulness means looking toward the future with hope, despite the hot mess of our world. Faithfulness means living beyond my own limited view and tendency toward fear. Faithfulness means inviting my faith community back in, despite the challenges that lie there. I could go on and on. At any rate, this Georgia girl thanks you for your words. I think I’ll join you on this one. Many blessings to you and yours for 2017.

    • So sorry for your losses, Amanda – my heart goes out to you! Praying for you as you are faithful and standing still in anticipation. xo

  • liza lee grace

    I love reading about one words and how they have been chosen. I chose words several years ago but like resolutions, I forgot about them after a couple of months. So I haven’t bothered choosing a word for a few years.

    But this year, a word that chose me. It’s been working it’s way into my life for several months but only announced itself as”this is your word for 2017″ a couple of weeks ago.

    Advocate.

    There have been times when I’ve needed to speak up and didn’t and now am learning how my lack of speaking up has affected others. I know come January I’ll have to do some pushing, advocating, and it’s completely against my personality. But I know it needs to be done and I’m the only one that can do it.

    I also have other things on my heart that I want to be part of and being an advocate is part of those things.

    • Love this – excited to see where it leads you!

  • HeiQ

    I think I may need to steal your word. I think it’s what I need to focus on right now, just sticking patiently with what we’ve decided to do, giving it time to grow and develop, rather than giving up or moving on when it gets hard. Or perhaps “patience” or “take your time” would be even more suitable.

    • You are more than welcome to my word if you want it. 🙂

  • Kathy Forsyth

    Hi, Sarah! Thank you for sharing your word and the process of finding it. My word is “focus” as in Philippians 3: 13-14 …I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. I’m tired of living scattered. I shared this post on my Facebook page. (:

  • Julianne Harvey

    Thanks for this, Sarah. In 2016 I began choosing 3 words for my upcoming year (as one just didn’t seem like enough). For this past year they were strong, clear, optimistic. And for 2017, I’ve picked open, accepting, anchored. I love looking back and seeing how I lived into these words and I’m excited to see how they will gently inform my life in 2017.

    • Love the three words idea – excited to see where your words lead.

  • Sandy Palmer Perry

    Mine is “trust” because I’m horrible at it and God’s really speaking to me about letting go. #recoveringcontrolfreak

  • Kinderox

    Ha! I am not doing OneWord this year. I’m still recovering from this year’s word: grace.
    M

    • Kinderox

      Okay, Sarah. Here goes.
      I really, really resisted a OneWord, because as I said, last year’s was hard. While 2016 had many beautiful moments and memories, it will be one that stands out as craptastic. I lost two dear people in my life this year (including my dad) It was also a year where I had to practice living with Grace in situations that sucked, and treat people with Grace, whom I would rather have punched in the face. (Oops. Did I just say that out loud? Nice Christian ladies aren’t supposed to say that kind of stuff. Good thing for my spiritual gift of self-control.) OneWord is just supposed to frame my bible studies and devos, I’m not actually supposed to learn from it, amiright? So, unless God wants to give me the Word “prosperity” or “sleep”, I’m out this year. (You don’t know me and you can’t see my face so you should know I’m being sarcastic and tongue in cheek here.(-: )
      But there was one word that kept following me around in my thoughts this past month. HOPE. Hope that comes from faith. Hope that beauty will come from ashes. Hope that those who live in the Lord live forever. Hope that God will continue to gently refine me. I will have a stronger “answer for the hope I have” because of last year.

      And today I got the picture of hope. “Gardening in winter”. I had received bulbs in memory of someone, but I hadn’t had a chance to plant them yet (see above for the type of year it was). I was sad they would go to waste, but a friend said, if the ground is not frozen you can even plant up until late fall. So thanks to the BC-like winter we are having, I planted them, hoping “late fall” could also extend to our BC-like “early winter”. I have hope that my tulips will survive and show up next spring.

      HOPE.

      M

  • Missy

    funny that FAITHFUL is my word as well. Amidst the craziness of our country and its future president, the turmoil in the world, the health of my family, GOD has impressed on me to be faithful. FAITHFUL TO HIM. It is not an easy task. I no longer want to be caught up in the frenzy of bashing Trump. There is nothing I find in him that I can follow. But God is reminding me over and over and OVER again, that as the world gets darker, His people must shine the LIGHT of JESUS. Must bring HOPE.
    The only way I can do this is to choose to be faithful to HIm. To try and act like Jesus more than the sinful self I am. Thank you again from this. And for you younger gals, this is me at 64 reminding myself that I am called to JESUS to be His servant and to be obedient.

  • Tiffany Norris

    Love love love this. And, speaking of love, that’s my word. I fought it too, as it sounded too much like the Sunday school answer. But love it is. Here we go. 🙂

  • Mandy c

    HOPE. It’s a word that God has been speaking to me a lot throughout December. A final letting go of this year and all that has happened, a challenge to leave 2016 well and to have the audacity to HOPE. HOPE no matter the circumstances, HOPE with the faith that it’s not what is seen but unseen. A Hebrews 11 kind of HOPE – so perhaps it’s the believing that faithfulness matters 🙂

  • Michelle Luck

    2016 was the first year that I did the one-word seriously, or perhaps the first year that I chose the right word – enough. I do enough, I have enough, I am enough. While I didn’t live it perfectly, it was a constant reminder that answered my niggles and doubts.

    This year I haven’t quite decided. I keep returning to ‘brave’, but not sure that I’m ready for all that might entail. Does that mean it’s right for me? I can’t decide whether my resistance is because it’s not right, or because it’s so perfect that it will challenge me in ways that will make me uncomfortable… I’m also wondering around ‘light’, ‘kind’, or ‘quiet’. I’m feeling like each speaks to a different area of my life – family, work, faith, self-development, and am working out where the common thread might be.

    • Karen

      How about bold? Brave was one I considered a few years back and eventually settled on bold. But that may not be right for you, and that’s okay too!

      • Michelle Luck

        Thanks for the suggestion. Reading through the other comments, I am going for intentional. Braves was mostly about a new work role that will require lots of tough conversations, but I think intentional will speak to all areas of my life,or at least I hope so!

  • Stephanie Rice

    I chose my word and it’s very meta – intention. I want 2017 to be about setting intentions. Not doing things out of habit or just coasting along, but to do things because I am choosing to do them and being a full participant in every aspect of my life. Thanks, Sarah, for bringing this project to my attention.

  • Kelly

    Faithful is a word that has been significant to me this past year, which makes sense considering my one word for 2016 was discipline. (https://learningtoloveagainblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/26/discipline/) I love Eugene Peterson’s take on faithfulness – long obedience in the same direction in an age of instant gratification. For 2017 God has given me the word savor, and I’m excited (and a little nervous) to see where that word takes me!

  • Marnie

    I have chosen ‘practice’. I have spent a lot of years reading and researching and learning and continually failling to put into motion the things I believe in. So, practice it is. This is the year to practice the more tangible things like sewing and dancing and the less tangible things like trusting and loving well. I keep alternating between thinking this is too boring and thinking ‘geez, why did I have to pick something that sounds like so much work?!’

    🙂

    • Elizabeth Ankeny

      I think this is brilliant!

  • “I think I might be surprised by what will happen in me and through me if I stop trying to be successful and instead seek more intentionally to be faithful.” I love this, and it hurts. I seek my own success far more than I would care to admit, and I pervert the idea of faithfulness: that God’s faithfulness means he will give me success, not that I am called to be faithful in the small, gritty, everyday ways. I’m looking forward to hearing more about how God shifts your mind-set, and I’m sure that I, as always, will learn from you.

    My word for this year is “thrive.” I had my first baby near the end of 2015, and I went back to work at 3 months postpartum (while I was still dealing with intense physical pain and anxiety). Needless to say, 2016 was pretty much all about surviving. Seemingly overnight, I’ve hit a good stride and I feel like I have time to pursue myself again. I want to question every minute of how I spend my precious time and make sure I use it in a way that enables myself, my relationships, my faith, my family, my marriage to thrive.

  • Erin Sandlin

    True story, I used to read the dictionary as a kid for fun. I still love words and exploring their origins and synonyms, so I got real excited that this is a thing….until Jesus told me my word for 2017 – ABIDE. I already struggle with this one and/or run away from it, so this will be fun.

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  • My word for this coming year is “identify” – and I can relate to the sentiment of “I wish it were any word but this one”! But this word surfaced a few days ago and will not go away, so I’m choosing the courageous path and leaning into it. I think I need to *prayerfully* identify what things are most important (more time with family and friends, next steps in my career, etc.) and find better ways to prioritize them, instead of being driven by the opinions of others, and my own “wisdom” and whims.

  • Karin Sowa

    Thank you.

  • Karen

    Healing. Which sounds lovely at first but is actually terrifying when you realize that the only way to heal is to address that which is broken in the first place.

    • Shannon Taylor

      I’ve only just discovered this one word idea, and Healing is something that has come to mind for me too – both for myself and for others. And I also feel scared of this word and what it involves. So i’m with you Karen, it is terrifying, but I know that with God we can do this.

  • I’m in the same spot – I knew my word when I came across it but wasn’t sure it’s what I really want. But sometimes we’re pushed to what we need rather than want, aren’t we? Mine is Release. Love your writing!

  • Michelle

    I got my word today…and you were right…I didn’t want it at all. It’s RELEASE. So much to release. Thanks for this concept of choosing a word for the year. I chose a phrase last year from Mother Teresa, “Do it anyway”. I prayed this morning for help in coming to my word, and it came to me within the hour: Release. My only son is graduating from college this year and he’s out of sorts with God and religion right now. That’s tough to release. Gonna keep the holy spirit on her toes this year! She’ll be putting in overtime with me.

  • Lynn

    My word is TRUST. My word journey has been persevere, build and grow. This year I am blessed to be remarrying after 8 years being a widowed single mom. Trusting God has been a focus on my journey. I thought I might be able to go with savor this year but as the realities of the challenges of blending settle in I know that trusting God, my fiancee, our children and ourselves on this journey will be as essential as choosing to love.

  • Cathy

    My word is “space”. I know what you mean by feeling like you want another word but God continues to press this word on you. This came to me in thinking about my mothering style of my sons ages 20 and 17. I need to be able to advise but then step back and give space for them to “own their own lives and decisions” rather than nagging. As I processed this word, I saw other areas of my life that need more space.

  • Kristen Howard

    Thanks for sharing, Sarah! I’ve done a word for the year in the past but didn’t do one last year. However over this advent season I really felt compelled to find a word this year to help me focus my thoughts and attention. And voila, the word Present stamped itself on my brain. And it’s perfect. To put aside distraction and be present in whatever situation I’m in. To wholly participate in the conversation, project, event, experience, etc without thinking of a million other things (which I find super hard to do most of the time). Cheers to 2017 and being Present!

  • What a beautiful word and what challenging thoughts with that word. Yes, sometimes I seek instant gratification without remembering that change takes time, results require regular action.

    I don’t set a word of the year. I’ve personally never felt drawn to an annual word, although I love reading about the words other people choose and why. I set monthly goals, all categorized by areas that matter most to me. Slowly my goals become habits, and I can drop certain tasks from my lists because I do them regularly, without having to make myself do them.

  • Lindsay Cook

    Thank you for this! I am so inspired to be less flakey and less of a back row participant!

  • Russell Nelson

    Fear. That’s my word. I just chose it because it is often with me. It’s not a ‘glass half empty’ idea, but something that is holding me back and has for years. I love the job I do, but it is highly political and rife with conflict. But I fear conflict; woe is me. I am a proud parent of two very talented and gifted teenagers, who are lovely and complex beings. But I fear making mistakes as a parent and that sometimes stymies me from being a better parent that I know that I can be. I have the most incredible, intelligent, and amazing wife of almost 30 years. There is no fear associated with the relationship specifically. Rather, I want to take some ‘risks’ with our relationship in how we serve others. When thinking about FEAR, I want a skeptical mind that questions ‘why’. Here it goes!

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  • MissDutra

    I’m still in denial, but I must admit that every time I’ve thought of one thing for this year, God has whispered the word “Discipline.” And it doesn’t sound pretty, fun, or romantic so I’ve been nervous about it. But I have a feeling that this word may reveal a side of our loving God and his intentions for me that I’ve never really been open to before. So I’m choosing to embrace it. Excited and nervous all at the same time!

  • Positivity. I didn’t really want that one either. (Would that be my natural negativity peeking through?) It’s going to be hard, and yes, it seemed so boring. But it chose me, and it seems so fitting, after last year, that a focus on the positive would be good, and it could be unifying.

  • Guest

    Intentional Faith. I feel God is working on me with trust and moving on my faith in Him and His plan for me. This is not easy, but necessary.

  • Dana

    My #OneWord365 for 2017 is #calm. Thank you for showing me this!

  • Bindy

    Thank you for this Sarah. For a few reasons I’ve avoided the one word idea in the past. I read this post two weeks ago and felt ‘regeneration’ as the word from God. Insert two weeks of avoidance here! I’m an Australian and mostly associate regeneration with the aftermath of bush fires and their destruction. 2016 was a very hard, painful, destructive year. The bush fire analogy is apt, but a big part of me just wants a word like ‘thrive’ or ‘blossom’. All the new life and joy, without the implicit acknowledgement of what has gone before. No deal, though; regeneration is sticking. I told my hubby yesterday and he was really struck by the word too. As you say, rats! Feels bitter-sweet, but very right. Thanks for providing the space to hear this word.

  • I’m one of those who has missed your blogs in my inbox, so here I am a bit late but inspired to add to the community by all those who have shared. The word that chose me this year is joy. For too long I’ve floundered in anxiety and comparison, wandered online and through life thinking of all the wonderful things about others, yet failing to take note and enjoy the breathtaking beauty of my own right-here-right-now life. I want to share cheesy jokes with my kids at dinner, discipline with playfulness, to laugh at the days to come with trust in God, I want to find the quiet kernel of light deep inside on the dark days. I know that a commitment to joy matters in 2017 more than ever, it feels like a gospel calling. (Time to get my own blog post going now! 🙂 )

    Blessings, Sarah and community. If ever there is a year for radical faithfulness, this is it.

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