December 22, 2023
It’s time to say goodbye to our words, can you believe it?
There’s value in acknowledging the end of something. Some of us may avoid endings because it’s bittersweet. We hate to see something end because we have loved it so, while other times we rush through the ending because it stirs up regret. We just want to move on to what’s ahead.
But goodbye is not good riddance.
We can say goodbye without rushing past or longing to go back.
Saying goodbye marks a moment.
Saying goodbye gives significance to what is ending.
Something gets memorialized as we acknowledge it is finished. In fact, how something ends often influences everything else about it. Think of those movies, books, or shows that started promising but had awful endings (Lost anyone?) It doesn’t matter if the beginning is great, if the ending is bad, even the best of beginnings can be tainted.
This isn’t to put pressure on us, that if we don’t tie a perfect bow on the year and our words, that it was all in vain. Instead, this is a call, an invitation, to simply pause. It’s an invitation to stop and thoughtfully consider our My One Word Journeys of 2023 before we embark on 2024. We get to acknowledge that 2023 is in the books.
Whatever this past year has been like for you, a formal goodbye puts it in perspective— a perspective that will help us see how this year matters for our future.
So let’s end 2023 well. Let’s bring our words to a conclusion.
One of my most favorite times of the year is almost here, that space between Christmas and the New Year. I love this window of time because most everything slows down and there is a world-wide acknowledgment of an ending and a beginning. In fact, our culture has a ritual of montage videos, a ball drop, and a countdown as our way of saying goodbye to one year as we usher in the next.
A ritual is something we do, it’s an act or a practice that we revisit. It’s the intentional involvement of our body and our mind to mark a moment. Specifically, an end-of-year ritual puts a period on the past twelve months— it acknowledges the end.
While most year end rituals also tend to focus on what is ahead, I want to invite us to consider a ritual that mostly gives honor to the year that is now behind us. Let’s take some time to remember. Not to simply recall what happened, but rather to enter in to all that 2023 was. To do this, I use my photos on my phone and my social media feed to look back and remember the year. It is a powerful exercise to see how the year unfolded in my pictures and posts, allowing me to really enter in and remember.
In Scripture, the Hebrew term for remember is “zacar”. This word is associated with faithfulness. We learn that God Himself remembers and in doing so, He will act according to what He has promised. For us, we remember and reorient ourselves to God’s faithfulness. We can look and see and ask Him how these events and memories reveal His faithfulness.
At the end of anything, we have hindsight. This is usually associated with some kind of second-guessing. But I would like us to consider something different. At the end of this year, we don’t just have hind-sight, we have the gift of retrospect.
For a whole year, our words have been a lens to see the work God is doing, a way to see the story God is telling in our individual lives, as well as the collective story of His people. Our words themselves can be monuments to God’s faithfulness, a vehicle to consider all the ways His faithfulness has been tangible- how He has guided, protected, and provided over the course of a year.
So, I encourage you to consider a ritual to mark the end of your My One Word journey for 2023. Go for a walk, visit your favorite coffee shop, sit on your back porch, or take a scenic drive, and reflect on the questions below. If you think best while being busy, reflect on these as you take down your Christmas decorations. (I wrote about this here). Our rituals will be varied and personal to our own preferences and means. The purpose is to participate in such a way that enables and encourages us to enter into a time of reflection.
-How would you describe your overall experience with your one word for 2023?
-In what ways did it morph over the year?
-In what ways do you feel like God was able to use it for His purposes?
-Our words build on each other. How do you anticipate the building block of this word supporting your one word for 2024? What of it are you taking with you into 2024?
-Grab your journal and pen and write out your thoughts from your reflection time. What do you want to remember most from your one word this year? In other words, if you look at this journal page this time next year, what do you want your 2024 self to be reminded of?
-You started your 2023 My One Word Journey by declaring your word. You probably wrote it somewhere, big and bold. I invite you to write it again, in the same big and bold fashion, but this time, as a symbolic conclusion.
Many of us may already be thinking about our new one word — 2024 is literally right around the corner! In fact, our finish line for 2023 and our starting line for 2024 may feel like the same thing, but they are two separate races, so to speak.
Let’s not rush ahead, let’s be fully present in this space. God is here with us now, in this moment, in our breaths between this moment and the next, between this year and the next.