Here we are again, friends: another New Year’s Eve, my most favorite day of the year. Endings and beginnings, memories and dreams, the impetus for traditions old and new.
One of my favorite New Year’s traditions is choosing a word for the year. This word (or words, as it’s been the last couple of years) and its accompanying bible verse become a theme that shapes how I experience and think about my life and spiritual development. This has been an incredible alternative practice to New Year’s resolutions for me, which, if I’m honest, usually end up overwhelming me instead of inspiring me.
In years past, the process of choosing a word for the new year is simple. God’s always given me a sense of clarity and ease when it comes to picking them out–the words keep consistently popping up in my devotions, in my prayers, even in magazines or podcasts. It’s not so much a process as it is a revelation. And the words themselves? They just fit. They feel natural, easy–like custom-tailored clothing.
But then came 2020.
And nothing about 2020 felt simple or natural or easy. So much of this year was filled with fear, grief, anger, frustration, isolation, massive lifestyle change, utter exhaustion, and–to be frank–emotional trauma. All on a global scale, all weighing down heavily on the collective of our weary shoulders. So, I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that choosing a word for 2021, like everything else this year, felt different and difficult. As far as process goes, I had lots of words come up over the last couple of months, but none of them seemed to quite fit, so it took me much longer than I expected (until yesterday afternoon!) to finally land on one.
Did that word make your stomach twist a little, as it did mine?
It’s a heavy word after a year when so many of my friends of color have been fighting because their freedoms and lives are on the line. It’s a controversial word after a year where so many have used (read: abused) the idea of personal freedom as an excuse not to protect or love or serve their neighbors. And it’s a strange word for this upcoming year, where I plan to willingly abide by guidelines around quarantining, social distancing, mask-wearing, and activity restrictions for as long as they’re needed while vaccines are still being distributed.
So, no, “freedom” does not feel like a natural or easy fit for this new year, unlike the words of new years previous. In fact, it feels vulnerable. Risky, even. Like an old dress that I haven’t worn in years and am afraid to try on because it might not fit me anymore.
What does freedom mean in the wake of 2020?
For me, it means a lot of things. Freedom to be still and rest even in the midst of busyness. Freedom to focus on what matters, to flow with ease, to take action when I am tempted to stay stuck. Freedom to be present in every moment, to practice mindfulness.
It means emotional freedom. Freedom to grieve, to feel anger, and disappointment—emotions I so often avoid or repress. Freedom to heal from wounds that have hurt me. And—perhaps most needed—freedom to delight. To enjoy life, to notice what is beautiful and warm and lovely, even in the midst of hardship and uncertainty.
And it means freedom to explore, to question, to imagine new possibilities. Freedom to evolve and change in ways I don’t expect. Freedom to take emotional, spiritual, and creative risks I’ve avoided taking in the past because of fear of rejection. Freedom to fail without shame.
So while this word holds a whole lot of heaviness, it also carries incredible potential.
But how will I begin to experience this freedom? I think the key can be found in my bible verse for 2021.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”2 Corinthians 3:17
As long as I am trusting in the Holy Spirit and obeying Him, I know that He will lead me to a place of abundant liberation—a freedom that not only frees me but that opens me up to help others experience it as well.
Let’s step into 2021 together in anticipation of newfound freedom that will allow us to face this New Year–and everything it may bring–with peace, joy, and courage.
Current Novel Word Count: 16,690 What I'm Writing: Nothing, but I absolutely cannot wait to get started on my novel again. Also looking forward to revising my short story and submitting it for the first time. Weird Writerly Topics I've Googled This Week: Nothing lately. Writing Exercises I've Done: Nothing lately. What I'm Reading: The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende, about to start On Beauty by John O'Donohue. What I'm Listening To:"Baby Son" by John Mark McMillan, "'tis the damn season" by Taylor Swift, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring on audiobook