Each year I join many others in selecting a word to think about and reflect upon throughout the upcoming year.
The reason I choose a word for the new year is to provide a new focus. The word is not arbitrarily or serendipitously selected. Rather, this exercise requires reflection over the past year, a self-check on one's personal mission in life, a gauge on what the new year may hold, and self examination of one's resolve. determination, and passion.
As many others do, I spend several weeks thinking and praying about this word. After all, it will become my watchword for the next 12 months or so. It will help to prioritize my intellectual explorations. It will provide new directions for my study and meditations. Hopefully, focusing on this word will manifest itself in some betterment of me as a person, as a Christian, as a missionary.
Another way to think about this activity is to think about naming a folder for the documents of your computer. When you put a simple label on that folder, it represents so much more than just that word. It stands for all the files in that folder. You create documents, save photos, store information, and organize thoughts all within that folder. It is saved and you are able to go back to it anytime, as long as it has been backed up and there is no computer failure.
Selecting a word for the year for me is like telling myself what folder I am choosing to work on. It gives me direction and rules for my navigation through the upcoming year.
Here it is: my word, my mental file folder name, my new focus for the new year: WISDOM.
It is a direction, not a destination (read: goal) which I will once and for all achieve. Goals are often thought of as behavioral in nature. While acting wisely is certainly behavioral, I see this pursuit as something much more holistic. I want to create habits of being that reflect wisdom.
If you are like me, after choosing a word, you begin to notice it everywhere. It seems to appear in places you have looked before, but now you really see it. That is what is happening to me now.
Wisdom and Practice
My first sighting of this word shortly after the strike of midnight signaling the new year was in a very familiar passage--the analogy Jesus chose to use to end the greatest sermon ever preached. Who is wise according to Jesus? Those who put his words into practice.
"Practice" is an interesting word because of its variance of meanings. Obviously, Jesus meant that when we DO what he said we should do, that is wise.
This word "practice" gives me encouragement, though. I used to play the flute seriously (friends from my childhood and teenage years will remember, I am sure). My private flute teacher would give me coaching and I would go and practice. I would hardly ever, or maybe never, play a piece well the first time I saw it. It took practice. It took hearing what my teacher said and trying it out. Even after performing a solo in a concert or competition, I never saw myself finished with a given piece. It could always be better.
The noun "practice" can also indicate a profession such as law, medicine, education, counseling, and the like. Doctors and lawyers refer to their "practice" where they exercise their professional judgment to perform a public good. Lawyers "profess" justice or mercy. Medical professionals "profess" health. Teachers "profess" learning, Counselors "profess" mental health and wholeness.
Wisdom and Professing
So, what do Christians "profess"? I found these three things all from the book of Hebrews:
1. FAITH: "Let us hold firmly to the faith we profess" Hebrews 4:14
2. HOPE: "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess" Hebrews 10:23
3. The name of JESUS: Let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that openly profess his name." Hebrews 13:15
So, I am off and running toward WISDOM. I will focus more on putting the words of Jesus into practice. I won't get discouraged when I fail. I'll keep practicing! I'll openly and boldly profess FAITH, HOPE, and the wonderful NAME OF JESUS. These are my first steps in my journey toward new understandings about wisdom.
Feel free to check in with me next year this time and ask me about the results of this effort. I welcome accountability!
What about you? What is your word? I'd love to hear about it and about your journey into a new focus for the new year.