I typically love the start of the new year – a new beginning, a clean slate, a fresh start. I pencil a dozen resolutions into my journal (hardly any of which I’ll keep). I clean the linen closet and organize the junk drawer. I cart bags and boxes of donated shoes, purses, clothes, dishes and knickknacks to the Goodwill. I strip the house of its Christmas finery and revel in the clean, spare space and the uncluttered surfaces.
But this year was different. This January 1, I welcomed the new year like a limp, deflated balloon.
I wasn’t any fun to be around on New Year’s Day, I’ll tell you that. There were no black-eyed peas simmering on the stove. No gathering of warm voices around chips and dip in the living room. I slumped through the day, crabby and self-absorbed, irritable with my husband, short with my kids. New Year’s Day may have arrived — that I couldn’t do anything about — but I was having none of it.
Awake early that cold morning, I crept downstairs while the house slept, curled on the sofa under the old threadbare comforter and huddled in the dark. The new year sat on my chest like a stack of steel beams. I didn’t feel the excitement of possibility, hope and new beginnings. Instead, from the moment my feet hit the chilled floorboards on New Year’s Day, I felt a dread the size of the Yukon Territory settle deep in the bottom of my gut.
“January, ” my counselor had advised back in September, when I’d first slouched into her office. “Give yourself until January before you make any big decisions.”
That had seemed fair. Four months had seemed like plenty of time for the pieces to begin to fall into place. Four months had seemed like plenty of time to craft A Plan.
And yet, there she was on my doorstep. January. With all her empty spaces on the calendar, thirty-one squares lined side-by-side, row after row, taunting me with their pristine emptiness. January, with her endlessly gray skies and her skeletal tree branches and her brittle cold. January had arrived. And I still didn’t have any answers. January had arrived, and there was no Plan.
Every year around New Year’s Day the blogosphere fills with One Word posts and announcements. If you’re not familiar with the One Word practice, it goes like this: Instead of penciling a laundry list of resolutions into your journal, you choose a single word that will serve as a touchstone throughout the year. I’ve participated in the One Word in the past. One year I chose “surrender.” Another year it was “trust.”
This year, though, I didn’t even contemplate a One Word. I wasn’t interested. I had bigger fish to fry. Fish like figuring out the disaster that is my professional life. Fish like getting a job, thank you very much. Choosing One Word was a luxury I didn’t have time for.
I didn’t choose One Word this year.
Instead, God chose one for me.
Yeah, this is typically how it works with God and me. I get all on my high-horse and make big proclamations about what I am and am not going to do, and he turns my plan right over on its backside.
I don’t have time for all that One Word foolishness, I declared.
“Oh, I know you don’t, honey. Here’s your word,” God replied right back.
Turns out, I can’t put God on a timetable. I can’t hold a stop watch in my right hand and give God four months to do his work in me. Turns out, I’m not the one who dictates the plan and the timeline, much as I prefer that, truth be told. Turns out, God doesn’t work that way. Shocker, I know.
Turns out, God has more work to do in me. And while I don’t exactly know what that work is and what it will look like and how it will manifest itself in me and my everyday life, I do know this: I must remain in him. It’s not time for me to bear fruit just yet – at least not the kind of fruit I expect and not the way I expect that fruit to be born.
God has told me to remain.
Dammit, I don’t even like that word. I mean, really, couldn’t God at least choose a word I actually like?
I tried to deny it. I tried to shirk it off. “Oh no, that’s not my word, God. I am not doing remain. Remain is so not me.” I tried to pick another word, as if I were drawing another Uno card from the top of the deck. I rejected remain flat-out.
And that’s pretty much how I know it’s the right word, the God-chosen word, for me.
Q4U: So tell me, do you choose One Word on which to center your year, and if so, what’s your word for 2015?
** One word graphic courtesy of Michele Little – she graciously makes them for free!