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 Enneagram: you 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.
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.
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.
How about you? What is your One Word?