Lots of Christians now participate in this practice, which began as a non-religious idea. The gist of the whole thing is that you pick a word, just one, that is about what you want to focus on for the year, rather than making a whole list of resolutions that get left by the wayside along with the diet. First mooted by the One Word 365 team, it was then picked up by the Church. In the Christian version, called My One Word, set up by Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen, the blurb goes as follows:
“The first step is to simply take some time and decide what kind of person you want to be at the end of this year… What are the qualities of the person you want to become? Once you have a list of the characteristics, simply pick a word..”
We choose a word, and use that as an intention for the year. I’ve done this every New Year since 2015, but with the proviso that the word is chosen, not by me, but by God, and communicated to me by the act of listening prayer.
This year I wasn’t going to do it, but my word came relentlessly anyway. It is “broken.” This highlights the first inherent danger of the practice, which is that without listening in, leaning in to the word that we are given, or choosing it for ourselves, we might miss what it is really speaking to us. There was a heartsink moment with this word, I admit, until God told me that it was about being broken open, about breakthroughs, about hatching.
I’m all for anything that helps us learn to be still and listen to the Lord, and I think this aspect ought to be highlighted in the materials, rather than people choosing their own word, however prayerfully. Because another danger is that we may well end up choosing or even hearing what we want to hear (and this can happen via our subconscious even in contemplation if we are not vigilant). We might choose a lovely, positive word like “Blessings” and not really let it lead into any soul work.
This given word can be a wonderful point of reference if we approach it with maturity, aware that another potential problem with such focus is that we can end up limiting what God wants to do, and also the time he wants to take to accomplish it. Because, let’s face it, God is rarely in a rush. Healing and shaping and refining his loved ones often takes decades, if not a lifetime. So, I go into this New Year knowing that the word God gave me this time last year (and probably the ones before that) goes with me. He’s not done with them yet, and probably never will be, but he understands that I’m a tiny, fairly helpless being and focus can bring good results.
For many people it is a help to have that one word to keep in mind and heart and work or struggle with. When it is done well, God-centred and prayerfully, I’ve seen it be powerful. But we must also bear in mind that it is a very, very small part of the picture. If you are going to participate, my advice would be, if you are a Christian, to do so slowly, carefully, in prayer and knowing from the start that the focus on this word is meant to be more of an aide-memoire, a remembering of God’s promises for this year, an idea about what HE is doing, not what YOU are achieving. Because control may well be the most dangerous thing of all in this for those following Christ. If we begin to imagine that change is all down to us, as if it were an exercise program or a special diet, we will end up deluded and certainly disappointed.
I think the My One Word movement has the potential to also be an exercise in focussing so hard on one thing that it misses the ONE NECESSARY THING. And whilst I will not discourage you from participating (nor should you feel obliged to take part), I would urge that you take it for what it is, and let the Lord lead you, not despairing if you hear nothing, not being surprised if the year ahead is about more than just one issue in your life, and not limiting God in any way whatsoever. Be open to all that he has for you, but by all means, ask for a point of focus if you feel that one is needed. If nothing else, your one word may be the conversation starter that you and he need.
Text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt, photo from Pixabay