If I were to be honest, I’d tell you that in the very moment my “One Word for 2015” came to me, I knew I’d be in for it. I simultaneously loved and hated this word, and it was for that very reason I chose it.
This word makes me twitchy.
This word sounds awful.
This word holds 4 years of Bible college baggage, and that doesn’t even include the premarital counseling books, every marriage seminar/retreat I’d ever been to, and ten years of full-time ministry baggage.
This word is a bad/good word and I flung myself at it like a woman in need of a good dose of humbling.
And humble me, it did.
That word? Submit.
Now here’s the deal, I chose that word thinking, “Hey Karen, this is the year you submit your work for publication, for writing contests, for actual compensation. Submit to your artist child and feed the creative within!” And that was all well and good.
But then Submit, like the cruel taskmaster she is, turned on her head and started whispering other things.
“You should be probably submit to the Lord more. I’m pretty sure you need some accountability, maybe a structured QT, maybe just submit to a much needed spiritual makeover. Also it couldn’t hurt you to occasionally submit to your husband. And maybe think about submitting to what your body needs, too. A tablespoon of peanut butter does not a breakfast make.”
Just fine, Submit. I’ll submit to you!
And this is what I did. In lieu of starting small and babystepping my One Word, I went all in towards a Big Life Goal. I applied to grad school. I spent three months working on my submission, asking for references, workshopping essays and investigating programs. I shot for the moon with a prestigious and internationally renowned local university. I submitted my application and felt the fullness of One Word Blessings for a total of 30 days.
And then I got that dreaded email. My submission was rejected, my application for admittance declined. Submit had failed me and I wasn’t even a quarter of the way through the year! I decided then and there to be done with Submit. We were never meant to be. I swept my word under the rug (where I keep our menu plan and kids’ chore charts) and forgot about her.
Except… submit did not forget me. For all the ways I’d sworn off that word, she was under my skin and affecting my decisions without me realizing it.
I started taking on a few more risks, with very little intentionality, having already abandoned my grand designs for 2015. I submitted my writing more. I enrolled in an evening summer course in the city. I listened to my inner artist child for a few weeks and started a (now dormant) habit of morning pages. I said yes to work that might’ve scared me, relationships that might’ve made me nervous, decisions that would not have come easily.
My key code: if I could see God or my gifts in it, I submitted. I didn’t submit in everything, but what I did do proved fairly beneficial. And it didn’t stop there.
While my posture wouldn’t lend itself to submission, my yesses in our marriage did. Let me explain.
Our language of mutual submission looks a bit like this: I look for icebergs, and he steers the ship. He trusts me to throw up warnings or holler when I see something, and I trust him to get us where we need to go. And then we switch.
My husband holds no spiritual sway over me, but together we move in the same direction, continuing to submit to one another – and together, submitting to Christ – the way we always have. From time to time I have to keep us on course, show him where we are on the map, and recalculate directions. And from time to time, he does, too.
I increasingly felt compelled to submit in one or two areas my husband felt distinctly compelled to lead in. Instead of putting the discussions off or dedicating myself to talking him out of it (which I am very good at), I trusted the Spirit’s work in him and went with the flow.
This bit of submitting was acutely needed in a year of loss and change. And it was a sweet comfort, too, as we huddled on the deck of this meandering sailboat together.
Finally, here’s what I’d like to tell you about my year of submitting, and about One Words in general:
We can fit any word we want into the story of our life. This year could’ve been the year of Grief, the year of Rejection, the year of Income Shortfall, the year of Eczema. And any word we choose can dissipate with the first thaw of Spring. I regret to inform you that in choosing any One Word, you will be humbled. We can start strong and trip over our good intentions, hiding those words away with all our forgotten plans or crushed hopes.
I may have done that, too, this year.
But choosing a word that scared, confounded and pushed me gave me permission to fail at it. I could spend the whole year figuring it out, trying it on for size, shaking it off when needed. Submit didn’t own me, but I like to think I owned it for a good bit.
I don’t know what my One Word for 2016 will be, or if I’ll even pick one. I’m half tempted to throw caution to the wind and pick a One Food for the year (Salsa? Sounds good to me!).
Or I may just see where Submit continues to take me, and hope I can keep up.