Truth be told, I’ve never really been a fan of the whole “word of the year” concept; mainly because I always thought it was something you’d only think about until March or so, then the piece of paper with "your word" on it would find its way to the back of the junk drawer in the kitchen, and life would go back to the way it was before you had that "come to Jesus" meeting with yourself on January 1st a few months before. Basically, I thought that the “word of the year” concept was simply setting yourself up for failure--until last year.
I didn’t have a big “ah ha moment” that made me change my mind. However, over time, I've come to the realization that it's actually okay to fail. I don’t have a good story about how that realization came about. I can’t for the life of me remember the exact moment or what was going on at the time. Knowing me, it was probably while watching an animated Disney movie or something. But I digress. Sure, I’ve heard all of the cute tweetables about “not failing is not living” or whatever; but I thought of them as just that: cute tweetables that actually didn’t have any bearing on my life. The truth is, failure is an inevitable fact of life, and many times, we can learn much more from hard-fought failure than we ever do from easily-won successes. Just because we’re afraid of failure (or even success for that matter) doesn’t mean that we should be frozen in fear. So, with my newfound respect for failure, I decided to come up with a word for 2016; a word that would help me keep focused on the things that matter most, not be as frazzled about the to-do’s, and that would ultimately help me prioritize better:
And guess what? I failed. I failed hard. To put it simply, 2016 was definitely not the year of rest for Greg and me. These last twelve months have been filled with big life changes, sleepless nights, schedules scribbled on restaurant napkins and two failed attempts at taking an actual vacation. I said “yes” to things I didn’t have time for, I let the “people pleaser” in me guide my decisions, and I didn’t take time to refill the tank when I was feeling low on fuel. With all of the change that came along in 2016, Greg and I also have a collection of incredible and unforgettable “God stories” to be thankful for as well. But overall, I struggled with not only physical and mental rest, but also resting in the sovereignty of God rather than the circumstances scribbled on a restaurant napkin in front of me.
In light of that, I thought about adopting the same word for 2017 to give myself some grace and have a “do over”, but before officially declaring my word, I decided to write out a list of 17 goals I wanted to accomplish for 2017. (First, because I thought that would help me focus in, and secondly, because I love lists.) After spending a good block of time writing and praying through my list, I noticed that the common theme among the seventeen items was a huge desire to produce good fruit this year. Not just little grapes here and there but big, huge watermelon-sized, God-sized ideas.
At first, the word that came to mind was “Be”. I don't want to just talk about these things he’s placed on my heart. I want to take action, do what God wants me to do and be what God has called me to be. As I went to write it down, not once but twice, something tugging at my heart stopped me. So I tucked my notebook, pen and Bible away in my bedside table and decided to sleep on it. After about five minutes of laying there in bed and praying about all of these watermelon-sized “good fruits” that I would love to produce this year, John 15:4 came to mind:
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. | JOHN 15:4 ESV
And just like that, I got out of bed, grabbed my cell phone and used the light of the screen to retrieve my notebook and write down my word for 2017:
The dictionary says that “abide” means to dwell, submit, wait for, and remain. That definition isn’t too far from what Jesus is calling us to do in John 15. To abide in Jesus means to submit to him and, to use my word from last year, rest in his goodness and sovereignty as we do what he has given and commanded us to do, not because it merits his favor somehow, but because he has given us his righteousness.
Truly abiding in Jesus is turning to Him in prayer instead of picking up the phone when someone aggravates you. It’s praying and waiting on his voice when it’s time to make those big (and seemingly small) business decisions. It’s giving each other (and ourselves) grace when things don’t go the way we planned. It’s turning to God when we go to make those plans in the first place. It’s finding true joy in Jesus and the gifts and talents he’s given you, not comparing yourself to others. It’s knowing that he is enough when you feel like you’re failing. It’s letting go of our worry, fear, anxiety and resting in Him.
I love what Matthew Henry wrote when commenting on John 15:4:
“…Let us seek to live more simply on the fullness of Christ, and to grow more fruitful in every good word and work so may our joy in Him and in his salvation be full.” | MATTHEW HENRY
No matter what your “word of the year” is, or even if you still think having a “word of the year” is silly, my prayer for 2017 is that we learn to live simply, abide fully and love Jesus more. Here’s to twenty seventeen!