What’s Your Word
Posted on December 19, 2013
As long as I can remember I’ve had a deep admiration for words. It’s why I became a writer. I like the way words are able to trigger a range of emotions. The right words can uplift. They can inspire and give hope. In other cases–the not-so-good cases, words can be used to assault in a form of emotional terrorism.
We’ve all been taught to choose our words carefully, giving credence to their power. It is with the careful selection of our words that we express: love; anger; hurt; forgiveness; praise; criticism; music; poetry; stories and secrets. Words are–at best–the conduit through which the motivations of our hearts are revealed. The bible explicitly says that our words can give life or cause death. This is, of course, metaphorical.What it means is that the words we choose can fill the atmosphere with positive energy. An energy that invigorates. Or, our words can fill the atmosphere with negative energy. An energy that vaporizes and drains the soul. Knowing this, I’ve always tried to be mindful of the words I use.
When I was going through my separation and divorce, I escaped reality by reading and watching movies. That year, Elizabeth Gilbert’s New York Times‘s bestselling memoir, Eat Pray Love, was made into a film. The movie, much like the book, was filled with beautiful metaphors, salacious stories of losing love, traveling the world, eating good food (amen) and finding yourself. I wanted to be about that life, so I watched it more times than I’d like to admit.
“Ruin is a gift.”
My favorite scene is when Gilbert (played by the stunning Julia Roberts) asks her Italian friends Sophie and Giovanni what the word for Italy is. She explained that every place had a word that could describe its culture. Continuing, she suggested the word for America would be, “work” because America is known for being the land of opportunity. The three sat contemplating Italy’s word. In unison they resounded, sesso because Italy is, by far, the world’s sexiest country.
I thought about the idea of a word being used to describe the culture of something. Looking at the pattern of my life it seemed my circumstances had dictated which words surrounded me. Abandonment, abuse, betrayal and deception all hung like banners over every passing year. After my one millionth viewing of Eat, Pray, Love (better known as the movie that kept me sane during my darkest hour) I decided I would pick which words guided my life. From that moment I would determine what my word for each year would be.
I declared 2012 the year of “greater”. I was newly single after a damaging marriage and I knew I deserved more for my life. Greater felt like the perfect theme to enter a new year and season. But, if we’re being honest here (because honesty is encouraged), I fell short of living up to the greater I had in mind. I let fear and brokenness dictate my thoughts and actions. By the end of the year I was a wrecking ball of emotions. On the surface, 2012 looked less than great. Yet, it took bringing my suppressed issues to light in order for me to see God work greater in my life. I wasn’t greater, God was.
“…Bestow on them a crown of beauty.”
I entered 2013 a little less passionate about giving the year a word, but just two weeks shy of 2014 I can say that the word for this year has been beautiful. I know it’s a loaded term, one that has been bastardized by our vain culture. That’s not the beautiful I’m referencing. In the book of Isaiah, God makes a promise through the prophet Isaiah. He says that in the year of the Lord’s favor He will give beauty for ashes. 2013 has been a year of God’s favor. I’ve watched him redeem areas of my life that I couldn’t conceive as redeemable. Most of all I watched Him miraculously heal my heart. I never knew what wholeness was until God allowed me to experience the depth of my brokenness. I’ve never felt more fulfilled, more content, more grateful or more beautiful.
“What if God takes broken things and makes them beautiful?”
As we quickly approach a new year I’ve spent time thinking about what my word will be for 2014. I wanted it to be a word that would guide my decisions, charge me to live up to God’s expectations and prepare me to see Him in a new way. The other day, while pondering 2014’s word, I remembered how I spent much of my pre-teens reading books on the Black Panther movement. I laughed at the protest I started at my high school, which almost resulted in my expulsion. I recalled the fiery passion I once had for justice. And then my word came to me–radical. At this moment I’m not sure how it’s going to manifest itself in the forthcoming year. But I’m hoping to have radical faith, pursue radical justice and give radical love.
Life: the days, the weeks, the months and years, don’t always go the way we plan. It wouldn’t be fun if it did. But, as image-bearers of God we have the power in our words to call ourselves into being–even if that being is a little bit radical.
Now it’s your turn:
What’s your word for 2014? Tell me in the comments section below.