Have you picked your word for 2017? It’s about time if you haven’t. I have picked mine—Exuberant. I would like to be especially exuberant this year. Exuberant as a wife and mom, exuberant at work, and exuberant in sharing the Gospel. I think this process of selecting a word for yourself is innovative, exciting, and helps you focus on how you frame or characterize yourself. It also adds energy to your goals when you bring them under the light of your word and its descriptors.
ex·u·ber·ant: filled with or characterized by a lively energy and excitement.
If you are like me, though, you are already looking past January and the newness of this year has worn off. I admit picking a word is a sprint for me: the effect is over quickly. I only remember it for a month or two because I forget to write it down, verbalize it enough, and put it into action. I also find myself downplaying my word, saying, “Maybe I was overzealous with exuberant. Maybe I’ll just settle into a more comfortable word. Essential. I will now just do what is essential to get by when life gets challenging.”
Maybe it’s time to define ourselves differently this year. As I was getting my first cup of coffee one morning, my husband said right before he left for work: “That note doesn’t define you.” I realized he was talking about the night before. Our daughter approached me and said we needed to fill out a school permission slip for activities. It was supposed to be turned in last fall but they didn’t have one on file for us. This didn’t feel like a big problem until our daughter said, “We were the only ones (out of 150 kids) that didn’t turn one in”—and I lost my exuberance.
It wasn’t that I wanted to show people I was the perfect mom. I have evidence that I am not, with vivid examples including a trip to the zoo in 2004 with my toddler, where I tried to teach a lesson about eating Cheetos that turned into a major scene in front of a moms’ group in the bear canyon snack pavilion. There was also the time at the orthodontist in 2010 where my child and I both cried and the amazing staff had to counsel us through it.
I told myself that 150 people were able to get this paper filled out, but not me. My word for 2017 suddenly switched to FAILURE!
My husband witnessed my mood turning from light to heavy. Failing to sign the permission slip was like a magic key that unlocked the vault holding my “all your failures” highlights reel. It also allowed my brain to go on a tangent of what Priscilla Shirer calls “illegitimate thinking,” or rehearsing unfounded thoughts.
Why is it so easy to let negative words and memories define us?
Another woman who might have struggled with negative thinking can be found in the Gospel of John, a Samaritan, labeled a sinner in her community, she’d had five husbands and was currently living with someone not her husband. I am guessing that even if she picked a positive word such as “independent” to represent that year, the words she truly defined herself with might have been guilt and shame. When Jesus asked her for a drink, He had so much more in store for her. She wanted to be set free from guilt and shame, but even if she thought she was getting a quick fix, He was offering her eternal life. You can find the story of the Woman at the Well in the book of John, chapter 4. We may not see Jesus in the flesh at a well, but we can encounter Him every day in the Bible and through the Holy Spirit.
We need to quit defining ourselves with words from our vault of failures and start defining ourselves with words from God that were meant directly for us, accepting what He has given us: unconditional love and eternal life.
Some of the words that God uses to describe me:
Chosen – John 15:19
Blessed – Psalm 118:26
Confident – Psalm 27:3
Beauty – 1 Peter 3:4
Strong – 2 Cor. 12:10
That morning, my husband named three more things that he knew I was struggling with and told me they didn’t define me either. Then he said the sweetest thing: “You are defined by love.” I was brought to tears. I am so grateful that he noticed this, pulled me out of my failure vault, and gave me a new word: love. With it came an invitation to take a look at how God sees me as a wife, mom, and friend. I should not define myself with my words because they are frail and human. I should define myself with the words God provides, which describe how He sees me, and rest in them.
I invite you to do the same. May you see yourself in the light of His words.
I’d love to have you share a word with us that describes you in the comment section below.
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