It took me a few years to understand the passion people had for choosing a word for the new year. (I tend to be long-winded, so I might have gotten on the bandwagon sooner if it had been a paragraph for the year!) Summing up meaning for the year in one word sounded too hard, and kind of pointless. Who knows what kind of year you’ll have? How can you choose one little word to sum it all up?
But then I read someone’s post on Instagram which changed my mind completely. It was described as something so different from goal setting that it caught my attention. It was framed as a spiritual exercise to do at the start of the year, a way to prayerfully consider what God might be speaking into your life, rather than a way to summarize goals and ambitions for the new year ahead.
So I decided to try it, and see what the result would be. What happened was something very beautiful and life-giving, and definitely a tradition I knew I wanted to continue.
A few weeks ago, I was doing my devotions and not thinking about a word for the new year at all. I was thinking about this last year, and how many good things had happened over the year, with my health, Ben’s new business, and parenting.
But it suddenly struck me how, looking back, I could see how hard it was for me to wait patiently for these good things to happen. I had trouble allowing things to unfold in my life in the right way, at the right time. I tried to make things happen by force and determination, which has at times been helpful, because I don’t give up on difficult circumstances, but has also caused pain. The expression “kicking at the goads” came to mind. I’ve tried to push too hard against difficult circumstances instead of letting things happen as they will. I’ve caused myself pain, and wasted energy by not trusting God to work everything out for my good.
I began to imagine how different my life would look if I would try to accept things the way they are, and trust that good things can happen, even with less energy expended on my part. In the past, I’ve felt that accepting something as it is would be like giving up and allowing things to stay negative. But I’ve been starting to see the difference between giving up, and allowing something to be, for now, trusting that by the grace of God, it will not always be that way.
As I tried to imagine my life with this change in mindset, I felt a sense of relaxing, letting go, and relief settling in. A quote I’d come across years ago suddenly came to mind:
“It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly.” (Aldous Huxley)
I remembered the quote wrong, though – I thought it said “gently” instead of “lightly”, and in that moment I had my word for the year. “Gently” seemed to sum up what I was feeling a new pull towards. Gently approach the hard and painful things, instead of forcing change in an unnatural way.
Over the last few weeks, this word has settled into my mind and taken root. It keeps coming up again and again, reminding me to allow space for that which needs to change, but needs time and a light, gentle approach.
Sometimes it frustrates me to have to work at something other people seem to do naturally. I watch Ben easily choose to release things in his life without resisting, the way I have. But I try to remind myself that each of us have our own lessons to learn, and different strengths and weaknesses. (Another way for me to practice being gentle with myself!)
And so now, I enter the new year gently. I choose to make room for what is, even if it’s not what I want, remembering that nothing is finished or final. There is still room for hardships to change, room for growth, and room for something new to gently unfold, in this fresh, new year.
Do you choose a word for the new year? I’d love to hear what it is, and how you chose it!