Are you a list person? Do this; do that; scratch it off your list. Lists can focus the mind, but sometimes we create lists to foster (or manufacture) spiritual growth. Change this; read that; be that person. And yet we aren’t made to respond to such dictates, as if we were robots. Love, rather than guilt, is a better inducer of change.
My One Word is a brilliant seemingly easy approach to spiritual growth, and a way to lose the lists and effect real change. Before God, choose one word for the year. The word will be “the lens through which you examine your heart and mind for an entire year” (p. 24). It will best reflect what you hope God will do in and through you. Say you choose trust. That’s the word you bring to mind when you receive the shattering news that you’ve lost your job. Or when you send off your teenage daughter on an overnight visit with her friend. Or when your grandson needs a medical procedure. Or when you move out of your comfort zone and visit the neighbour you suspect is hurting. Choosing one word becomes the way to change our outlook and behaviour, especially when we pray through it and seek it (or the principles behind it) in Scripture.
When I first read this book last January, I loved the idea. After praying for a few weeks, a word reverberated through my being: flourish, with a verse to go along with it: Isaiah 55:10–11 (“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it”). But I questioned that I got the word right. It seemed a bit cheeky to choose such a wonderful word. Yet I couldn’t get away from the idea that this was to be my word for the year.
But I didn’t put into place the many helpful suggestions the authors give about how we can own our word and incorporate it into our daily lives – I didn’t slap it on my computer monitor, for instance, or stick it up on the fridge. After a month or so I forgot about it. And only when I was leafing through my stacks of review books did I realize I’d let this drop. So a few months later, I started to follow through on my earlier good intentions. And as I look back at 2013, I do see flourishing and growth: the joy of friendships. The love of family. Stretching and enriching work. Finally joining a gym and loving group exercise. The close presence of God through it all.
What might your word be for the coming year? According to the authors, the ten most-chosen words are: trust, patience, love, discipline, focus, faith, surrender, peace, listen, and joy. All rich and wonderful words, but no doubt God will have just the right one for you.
I invite you to read this encouraging and often moving book and to join me in choosing just one word. May God transform our hearts and minds through the work of his Spirit.
My One Word: Change Your Life with Just One Word. Mike Ashcraft & Rachel Olsen (Zondervan, ISBN 978-0310318774)