Dan Stringer

navigating the convergence of faith, culture and the common good

My word for the year

February 21, 2014

stringer pianoHow are those new year’s resolutions going? Sticking to that diet, budget, fitness or reading plan? I was supposed to get back to blogging at least once a month in 2014, which obviously didn’t happen in January. But that doesn’t mean I can’t dust myself off and give it another try. So here goes.

Perspective. It’s my word for 2014. If you haven’t yet chosen a word for this year, it’s not too late. For some background, Carolyn Weyel has written a helpful introduction to the concept of choosing one word at the beginning of a new year.

My word for 2013 was simplify, as I sought to de-clutter my ambitions, possessions, schedule and obligations. As it turned out, our family relocated to a smaller living space closer to work, downsized our belongings, sold our beloved baby grand piano, cancelled many (though not all) of my precious magazine subscriptions, narrowed the focus of our charity giving, and said goodbye to our television and microwave in 2013. These simplifications didn’t all happen at once, but unfolded gradually during the year.

Lest I give the impression that this word was a silver bullet, it’s worth mentioning that I still drive too much, waste too much time on the “phone,” and have yet to finish that book on simplicity I pledged to read. Nonetheless, I’m grateful for each plodding step in simplicity’s direction. How incredible that a word can clarify a year.

Back to perspective. How did I select this word? My thoughts were initially drawn to a different word: priorities. After all, my new year’s resolutions were loaded with priorities in areas like health, family, schedule, career and study. With such a long list, I had to prioritize. And what better way to increase my chances of accomplishing these goals than to select “priorities” as my word for the year? Focus on priorities, accomplish priorities, right?

But something was missing.

Shortly before year’s end, a friend introduced me to Good Dirt, a resource helping families journey together through the church year: Advent, Christmastide, Epiphany, and so on. Naturally, I discovered Carolyn Weyel’s piece on choosing a word for the year, in which she stresses the importance of allowing God to choose the word for you. I realized it wasn’t about accomplishing my wish list in 2014, but attending to what God wanted to grow in me. I took Carolyn’s advice and prayed about it.

As it turns out, I had everything wrong but the first letter. I was missing perspective. Good things happen when we slow down, pause, pray. We gain perspective. We experience the present moment. We actually notice our planet. We think differently about the people who make life difficult. We consider viewpoints beyond our biases. We release our to-do lists to God.  We receive new eyes, open to the unseen.

You can be sure I’m still working on my list of priorities (like trying to finish this blog post). But what happens when I fail to prioritize my own priorities—like when I don’t exercise or read or save money or get to bed on time? What can unaccomplished priorities offer me when all I can think about is how different I wish things were? How will I respond when I let myself down?

Only a supreme grace can help me slow down, pause, and be present with God, whose desire is not that I get what I want, but that I see as he sees. When my efforts fail to produce their intended results, I need his perspective on those efforts (and results). When my kids frustrate me, I need divine perspective. When people repeatedly annoy me, I need supernatural perspective. When my goals remain elusive, I need the perspective of other travelers along the path. 

I still miss our piano. But this year, I’m getting new eyes.

What is your word for 2014? How was it chosen?