I Regret to Inform You That You Will Be Humbled

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.


  1. Rachel December 27, 2015

    OH boy, did this ever hit home! My “word” for 2015 was supposed to be “content” (as in the attitude of being content) and I feel like I failed miserably, and I struggled nearly every day to choose joy and gratitude in living overseas with all the accompanying frustrations. (And I didn’t even memorize 1 chapter of Philippians where I wanted to memorize the whole book!) So, so humbling. And yet I feel a sense of comfort in the fact that God isn’t finished with me yet – there is grace and a new season ahead to learn, grow, and keep trying! Also haven’t decided if I’ll have a word for 2016 yet, but I’d love to hear if others do!

    1. Karen Huber December 31, 2015

      Rachel, I feel like even aiming for the memorization of Philippians is a huge success itself, whether or not you made it. 😉 I’m so thankful He’s not finished with either one of us!

  2. Grace L December 28, 2015

    My One Word for 2015 was “NOW”, but I do believe I also failed miserably at staying in the NOW. This past year was peppered with travel and I also had to be in the future planning, and often in the past reminiscing. But the word NOW would come back to me from time to time and I would try to stop and breathe in the NOW and enjoy the NOW. As I think back on this year, it seems that so much of the time was spent in the “tyranny of the urgent”, and am now just wondering how that connects to NOW (get it done NOW!). Something to think about. All this has me thinking about what my One Word should be for 2016. More than anything I want to slow down and say “NO” to the “tyranny of the urgent”. I will continue to pray about what One Word to choose and see where the Lord leads me.

    1. Karen Huber December 31, 2015

      Oh man, saying no to the “tyranny of the urgent” is a fantastic idea. Praying 2016 is a year of beautiful slowness and peace for you!

      1. Grace L December 31, 2015

        Just this evening we were sharing at the dinner table about the past year, and I had another thought about my one word for 2015. I had chosen “now” thinking the focus would be on staying in the “now”, the present. But as I shared my frustrations about the “tyranny of the urgent”, I thought of another meaning for “now”. Rather than being in the present, it seemed the “now” ended up meaning “now, right away!” Yes, I pray I can slow down and be patient and walk in His peace more and more. Thanks for your encouragement!

  3. Elizabeth December 28, 2015

    I love the title Karen! And you totally cracked me up here. Salsa? 🙂

    Fascinating how the word expanded to mean so much more than you originally meant it. I think that happens a lot — it has to me.

    Also, love your description of mutual submission in marriage 🙂 (Oops I’m letting my inner feminist show. Better stop talking now!)

    1. Karen Huber December 31, 2015

      Hahaha. This is a safe space, Elizabeth. Maybe we should exchange notes. 😉 Happy New Year!

      1. Elizabeth December 31, 2015

        I really love your shipping metaphor. The more metaphors we have to describe how it works, the better 🙂

        Happy New Year to you too!

  4. Anna December 28, 2015

    My word for 2015 was “Celebrate.”  2014-2015 were both intensely challenging years, and I wanted to be purposeful in finding things to celebrate and focusing on the good and the beauty that were there with the challenges.  Still thinking about this year’s word.

    1. Karen Huber December 31, 2015

      Ooh, celebrate is such a great word and exercise in joy-finding. Thanks for sharing it!

  5. Julie in Germany December 29, 2015

    Your blog post title basically summarizes my overseas experiences as an adult – humbling!

    1. Karen Huber December 31, 2015

      Hahaha! Mine, too! May 2016 be the year we learn and thrive in our humility. 🙂

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