Back in January, my pastor asked our congregation if anyone had chosen their One Word for the year. He suggested a move away from making New Year’s resolutions toward choosing one word as a focus for the year. A few shared their words as the mike passed around the room. I had my word, but I didn’t share it.
I was reading last November when the Holy Spirit pricked my heart. A word lifted off the page and caught my attention. Over the next few weeks, I saw this word pass in front of my eyes several more times before I began to understand it would be my new "one word." I hoped I had misunderstood. I didn’t like it. I wasn’t completely sure what it meant and it had too many syllables. I wanted a word rich with biblical meaning with lots of references that I could look up in the Psalms. My word wasn’t even in the Bible.
The word was incandescent.
If I had spoken it aloud in that church service, I wonder how many people would have rolled their eyes back into their head? I wouldn’t have blamed them. Who picks a word like incandescent to be their One Word? What did it even mean except that it described a type of light bulb? Those people, on the cusp of a new year, would have thought, “That poor lady needs to get a life.”
I kept my mouth shut and didn’t give anyone the opportunity to think any of those things. Others said their words---trust, hope, and grace---while I said a silent prayer for the Lord to give me the strength to trust Him with my weird word.
Besides my one word, the other secret I was keeping was the doleful truth that my prayer was feeble; my faith was weak.
In the days before Christmas, I had awakened in the night and was overcome with doubt. It came out of nowhere and made my stomach ache. I considered in the darkness if everything I had ever believed, all that I had built my life around, my faith, was a figment of my imagination. Three years of waiting, of being sidelined by God from a place in leadership in ministry had me questioning purpose and significance. I came into the middle of my life thinking life would expand. Instead, it had narrowed as my kids winged away into the world and my parents dealt with health issues. I had tried to make some sort of writing life when a writer’s block fell around me surrounding me like a fortress.
I hate doubt. It tastes like eating soap. I told myself to get my act together. I tried to remember all the times the Lord had come for me, times when I was in sin or was sick, in times of loss and betrayal, when I was absolutely broken. I knew I couldn’t fix my doubt. I had already lived the story of trying to fix myself. No, this heart-sickness was too much for me. I didn’t give God a dare, but He would have to prove himself real. I wouldn’t walk away. Instead of freaking out, I would wait.
I did have my word simmering on the back burner, the crazy word that I had not yet looked up on “the Google.” The dregs of Christmas lay about the living room when I opened up the laptop and typed the word incandescent into the search engine.
• incandescent (s = adj.all) candent - emitting light as a result of being heated; "an incandescent bulb"• Derived form noun incandescence1 incandescent (s = adj.all) - characterized by ardent emotion or intensity or brilliance; "an incandescent performance" (http://bible.sabda.org/lexicon.php?word=incandescent)
My heart began to flicker with a little flame of hope.
I heard a preacher say one time that doubt is evidence of faith. I remembered the chill of last winter and I was comforted. You cannot doubt what you do not believe. Those without faith cannot doubt.
It’s been the warmest autumn I ever remember and the flame in my heart is burning hot. The Wind of the Spirit has passed my way again.
“a bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory;
(Jesus in Matt 12:20, quoting from Isaiah 43 )
This is one of the many things I love about Jesus. He is not alarmed by the “smoldering wick” of our faith. When He sees our flame losing its heat, He is not disappointed or angry at us. He will not throw a bucket of water over our uncertainty and walk away.
Jesus is committed to his children. He always has been. He comes to our little smoldering coal of a heart and blows his love over us like whisper.
He fanned my smoldering wick to flame because I was willing to sit in the discomfort of my emotional pain. I didn’t run from it. I didn’t try to make it better with food or exercise, shopping, or media binging. I put one foot in front of the other and lived in the rhythms of faith I had built over a lifetime.
To my surprise and joy 2016 has been a year of great spiritual growth for me. The fire of faith within me is burning hot. I am more in love with Jesus, and more awake to his work in my life. I’m living with more trust that God is working sovereignly in all things whether I see it or not.
It’s November again and I’m paying attention, anticipating a new word to be revealed for next year. I admit it won’t be easy to leave the word incandescent behind. Maybe I won’t...
Are you anticipating your word? Do you have a One Word story?
I would love to hear about it. What was your One Word for 2016?