Dr. Rachel Coleman
For several years now, inspired by the example of a young and much-admired friend, I’ve been choosing a “word of the year” to carry with me through the 12 months of daily living that start on January 1. Another young friend and colleague asked me last week, “How do you choose? And what benefit does a ‘word of the year’ bring to your life?”
The perceptible benefits of this practice can be summed up very simply: attentiveness. I have found that having a prayerfully selected word for the year, accompanied by a well-chosen Scripture passage, keeps me attentive, alert, on the lookout for the ways that God is working in relationship to all the things bundled up in that single word. The “word of the year” is an instrument that helps to fine tune my senses to see and hear more clearly the little evidences that I might otherwise miss.
The process of choosing is pretty simple. I spend some time looking back over journal entries for the final couple months of the year, to identify the themes and threads that show up consistently from times of prayer and engagement with Scripture. Then I try to discern what it is that God is speaking into my life and which word would best express that message and serve as both an anchor and a motivator in the coming year.
Reflecting on journal entries for the latter months of 2018 revealed the patient, gentle wooing of the Spirit to a wounded heart and a bruised faith and the bold invitation to hope again. In fact, I first leaned toward hopeas my new “word of the year.” But then I realized how consistently God was drawing me back to one of my most cherished passages in all of Scripture, Ephesians 3:20–21: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is a work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (NIV). Those verses express the reason we can hope and the wild, bold scope of hope-filled prayer. They invite us to place our hope in the God who can do immeasurably more that our limited capacity to ask and they stir us to fling wide the doors of imagination in our asking, so that the possibilities can be shaped by God’s limitlessness rather than by our limitations.
So I choose “immeasurably more”as my 2019 “word of the year.” Yes, I know it’s two words in English, but those two translate a single robust Greek word, hyperekperissou. To get a sense of the richness of the word, just look at the various translations: infinitely more (NLT), abundantly beyond (NASB), exceeding abundantly above (KJV), far beyond (CEB), so much more (GNB), abundantly far more (NRSV). So, as we stand on the edge of the new year, I’m bringing along my words from 2017 (expectancy) and 2018 (boldly), both grounded in the audacious prayer of the church in Acts 4:29–30, ready to embrace with bold expectation the “immeasurably more” of 2019.
Happy New Year, everyone! I’d love to hear about your “words of the year” and how or why you chose them.