At the beginning of 2012, more than ever before, I saw other bloggers talking about their “word for the year.” Even when it felt normalized (rather than capricious or trendy) it was still scary to me.
To claim that I was going to focus on this topic/image/virtue/goal for the coming year was intimating because I wasn’t sure I could focus on anything for a year.
Repeated defeats and distractions will do that to a person.
Even so, I prayed about it because I really love words. And the idea of having a pet word, an anchor for thoughts and prayers and meditations (when I remembered it, at least) was very appealing.
And I got my very own word for the year.
And didn’t tell anyone, because I was afraid. I was afraid of making a big deal out of something that would turn out not to be a big deal.
Because, honestly, when you’re declaring one word is enough to last you the e.n.t.i.r.e. year, you’re calling it a big deal. I work with words and I know what I’m talking about.
The word I got this January was hope.
In January I was (un)well into my second year of depression, but I was starting up with a new counselor (my third– there’s a story in felt-failure: that it took me three tries to find the right someone), and finding new books, and had a sense of anticipation.
I can’t say it was necessarily about “the coming year,” but it was about life in general, and I was ready for hope.
It was (I believe) in that second linked book that I read (and latched onto) a definition for “hope” that I’ve repeated many, many times this year.
Hope is the assurance that *now* is not permanent.
That is, of course, only a partial definition. It expresses a desire for change (for the better) but not enough of the positive anticipation.
I did a word search through the bible while the word hope was on my mind. About the same time, one of the elders in our church urged all of us to choose a “verse for the year.”
I feel a bit the same about verse-for-the-year as I do about word-for-the-year; only you’re not allowed to say that you think a bible verse isn’t big enough to last a year, so naturally I just was quiet rather than draw attention to myself about how I doubted I’d commit to one of those, either.
Mostly I didn’t want to start one more thing, build it up, in my head or in public, and then notice six-months later that this centering verse, chosen to draw all the craziness of Life toward a single focus, did nothing more to contain the centrifugal spatter of my life than it did cozied next to the verses that were its normal companions.
I just don’t need the extra pressure or resultant discouragement.
But even though I rationally and objectively felt this way, I still liked the idea of searching the scriptures to see if anything “popped,” and combined with the word hope, something did.
I emailed it to the elder, as he’d requested to hear from us in the church, but I asked him not to include it in the general discussion because I was so shy of it.
It was a mighty-big verse to me, and I was shy to have it connected as my heart-prayer. Especially in the context of it being “this year’s” verse. It was much easier to say, This is near my heart. I trust telling you, but please don’t extend it farther, or I’ll feel a need to be explaining myself.
And I just don’t like the idea that I have to explain my affinity to, or delight in, a verse of scripture.
Yes, after all that I’ll say what it was.
May all who fear you find in me a cause for joy,
for I have put my hope in your word.
It felt audacious to say this is mine, to declare I wished to be a cause of joy for all God’s people.
I mean, we can’t all agree on anything else, why should anyone care if I put my hope in God’s word?
But this idea of being a source of joy *thrilled* me. By not making it public no one was asking how I thought scripture made sense. I didn’t have anything to prove. I had asked God to show me something that made me feel alive. And this is what I found.
And other than the word hope being in the verse, it isn’t strictly tied to my word-of-the-year, except in my mind. But they were both my January Discoveries this year that didn’t go away.
This has been a year of hope for me. Both of the hanging on, and the anticipatory, and the realization of the delight of hope fulfilled.
I saw healing after two years of depression.
I realized a long-held dream had come true.
And (I’m trying to make this past-tense) I’ve realized I will always be striving.
(More on that next time.)
It is wonderful knowing that the way things are now aren’t the way they will always be.
I picked a word for the year too. I picked shalom. And, I defined it as glorifying God by living in right relationship with God, with self, with others and with the rest of creation. I didn’t make that definition up. In their book, “When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Yourself,” Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert define poverty alleviation as moving people in that direction. I am not in financial poverty… but this year, I have felt like I was emotionally and spiritually very poor. I am not whole. I am not at peace.
Trendy? I don’t know. And, I don’t even know if I will be successful. But, it is my intent to take baby steps in the right direction.
I’ve never heard of picking a word for a year, but I think Hope suits 2013 for me. I think I’ll borrow it.
Also, I lol’d at “contain the centrifugal splatter of my life”.
@ Julie — Sometimes I’m sorry to use the word “trendy” in the pejorative sense. There is a certain kind of sensibility in a lot of things that are generally adopted (like electricity and running water).
Perhaps the negative sense of “trendy” comes from the idea that it’s not enduring enough to last, but I am learning how many things that are *perfect* one moment can be inapplicable the next, and it is probably wiser to let it go and find what else you need (or benefit from) rather than clinging to dead leaves as they could still provide their plant with nourishment.
@Kessie — I pray great hope for your coming year.
And, yeah, that was probably my favorite line in the whole piece, too.
I had One Word for 2009, 2010, and 2011, but not for 2012. But looking back, Hope might have been a good word for me. I sort of chose that with Estel’s name (“hope” in Sindarin). Last year was also one in which many “Dreams” came true, and I found a rooted sense of “Home” after wrestling with homesickness and in the midst of a cross-continental move. I’ll have to reflect more on a word to sum up last year.
I wasn’t going to pick a word for this new year, but your question the other day must have gotten my subconscious working. Earlier today, a word popped into my head for 2013: “Ready.”
Pingback: One Word 2013: Ready | Becky Castle Miller
I’ve seen a lot of people do this. I’m
Not sure there is a word to describe what I want for 2013.
A bit late but wanted to say this was great. And a bit ironic. I spent 2012 wrestling with hope. Mostly trying to send it away. “Hope deferred makes a heart sick”. And I’m sick of being sick. Still working on that one.
I’m glad you finally came out of your depression. I had a nearly 2 year fight with depression a couple of years back. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
And I think you’ve just inspired me to pick a word for 2013. Freedom. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” (Galatians 5:1) I’m just going to be free and not worry what anyone thinks or if it works out alright or not.
Thanks for a great blog post!
Oops! a bit late on my response, too, but I’m so glad you stopped by and found something encouraging!
Hurray for freedom! Sounds like a celebratory year :)