When Christmas is over, the reality sinks in- a new year is approaching. Many people do a lot of reflecting on the year that is passing. Others think of what they want the next year to look like. Often, that hope for the future takes the form of New Year’s Resolutions.
You may have mixed feelings about these resolutions. They often seem like good habits that we engage in until our willpower gives out. Perhaps you have kept your resolution all year (I did, once). It may be that you think January is a weird time to decide you are going to live differently. You may think that this year, your resolve will be so great that it will finally be the year that you make it. But whatever you feel about this tradition, you are likely to be asked if you made any New Year’s Resolutions.
I would like to propose an alternative for you.
Word of the year
My mom does something really unique and beautiful every Jan. 1. That is the time she chooses a word to focus on for the whole year. Now, I might argue that she’s choosing an attribute, but she calls it her word of the year. She chooses things like Trust, Peace, Grace, or Patience. These are often reflective of how God is planning to teach her during the year.
But once you have chosen your word, what do you do with it? The best I can do is describe to you how my mom interacts with her word of the year. Besides meditating on that quality, she is also on the lookout for it. Hearing how God continually brings up things that go along with her word of the year is really encouraging to me. They often pop up in Bible reading or in sermons. The theme reverberates in her prayer life. And always, God chooses to stretch and grow her according to her word of the year.
Slightly different from my mom, I choose a theme verse for my family as the new year begins. As I think about what to choose, there is often one that pokes its way into my consciousness (that’s the Holy Spirit right there). Two years ago, I chose Colossians 3:12-17. Almost nightly, I would pray this over my children. Before they got on the bus, I would remind them to remember to be gentle or kind, patient or compassionate. Asking them at the end of the day for examples of how they showed one of those qualities often got surly answers (hey, they are kids). Lest you think this was just something I was loading on young ones in my care, I also thought heavily on these. I would evaluate if what I was doing was gentle, humble, or loving. Though these exercises, I feel I got much more benefit and insight into how these verses can be transformative in our everyday lives.
While I was not mentally healthy enough to pick a verse last year, I would say 1 Peter 4:12-13 was God’s theme verse for us. Not gonna lie, I was often surprised by my fiery ordeals! And boy did they come in 2018! But man, oh man, I sure have a new appreciation for what can be gained when I suffer! I had never realized that one could rejoice and still be suffering. They aren’t mutually exclusive. The things I have learned from prolonged difficulties would be hard to come by any other way. And so, as the year ends, I do rejoice in my year of suffering.
Verse for 2019
As I’ve been pondering what verse to adopt as a theme for this year, a particular phrase kept coming to mind: in knowledge and depth of insight. Since the Holy Spirit prompted me this way, I have chosen Philippians 1:9-11 as my theme verse this year. I’m excited to (first of all) get it good and memorized, then pray it over my children. The realization that God is praying this over me- that my love will increase in knowledge and depth of insight- humbles me. While I’ve been trying to drop verse 11 off of it, the Holy Spirit hasn’t let me. How that will impact my year (and my family’s year) is a mystery that I am so eager to be revealed.
So instead of focusing on building a new habit or breaking a bad one, perhaps you might choose a theme for your year. One of the most beautiful things about approaching the year this way is that it is totally not dependent on your own willpower. Instead, it is up to God. As you open yourself up to Him, to hear from Him in your verse or theme, He will do the work for it! Because of that, it is impossible to break your resolution, impossible for you to fail! Then you will totally get to see how God is actively working in your life in specific ways.