Typically, I can remember when I was given my word for the year. I can remember that moment of that’s it! So I keep that memory close, and then at the end of the year, knowing all that I didn’t know before, I like to reflect on it. I like to think back to when I wondered why is this my word? And why can’t it be Hawaii? Or jackpot?
This year however, I have only remembered one thing on repeat.
It was in January, and my sister and I were sitting at our kitchen table. She shared her word with me and I shared mine.
“Believe,” I said.
But instead of just leaving it there, I followed it up with THIS:
“It’s kind of a beginner word.”
This has absolutely haunted me ever since.
Especially because, shortly after telling her this, and thus starting my “year of believe”, my “year of a very beginner word” our apartment flooded. And that kicked off a series of chaotic events that left me hanging on for dear life.
I’d initially viewed “believe” as just a word that meant I believe in God.
It was a beginner word because—I thought—it was a basic concept. It was a yes or no question. Do you believe? Yes. Okay, I guess I’ll see you in 2023 for a new word.
But as I began to walk into this year, into the real heart of it, I realized that do you believe? is not a one-time question. And it’s not a choice you make once. It is not the same as asking someone, do you like mushrooms? Believing is an ongoing question, an ongoing experience, an ongoing answer.
And to say, yes, I believe is not a catch all answer of faith.
It is used many different ways, and thus is can mean many different things.
In the song “I’m Not Alone” by Riley Clemmons, she says, “help me believe what is true,” and in her song “For the Good” she says, “I know you’re working; I believe!”
Already this is two different versions of the word believe. Help me believe what is true asks for help in casting out the lies we are hit with every single day. The lies that say, “you are not enough” “you are unlovable” “you don’t deserve good things.” And on dark days, when we are especially vulnerable to those lies, it takes a lot of courage not to believe them.
I know you’re working; I believe is a proclamation that you believe God is working behind the scenes. That even when you can’t see the plans He has for you, you believe they are good. Even when it feels like you are stuck or lonely or abandoned, He is working. It means that you believe you are living a purposeful life, even when you don’t know what that purpose is yet.
In “Famous For” by Tauren Wells, he says, “there is no fear ‘cause I believe”
In times of chaos, grief, or unknown, it is very common to feel scared. Heck, I feel scared in good times, too. I always like to know what’s happening or what’s about to happen. I like to feel like I’m in control, or like I can escape—like I can change the ending if it’s not going to turn out like I wanted. But to say, “I have no fear, because I believe” means that even if the ending is nothing like you expected—even if the middle or beginning is nothing like you expected—even if you have no idea where you are or where you’re going or what you’re doing, you know God is in control. That there’s no reason to be afraid.
There are so many elements of “believing.”
And the more I found, the more I realized that it is THE FARTHEST thing from a “beginner” word.
Because I realized that no, I don’t believe all these things. Not all the time. Sometimes I believe in the opinions of the world over the opinions of God. Sometimes I believe my life is off track or “wrong” or unsuccessful, rather than believing in the plans and pace God has given me. Sometimes I believe that God has left me behind, that I need to give into the fear, that I need to “take the wheel” rather than trust He has it under control.
Over the course of this year, there were many moments I wanted to stomp my foot and say, “this isn’t it! This isn’t what I wanted. This is, perhaps, what I feared most. Why? WHY?”
And through every trial, through every season of doubt, panic, and smog, I just kept hearing that word: believe.
Believe that this is all part of a plan.
Believe that you are in good hands.
Believe even though you can’t see, understand, or predict what’s going to happen next.
This word, this lesson I learned, will serve me well going forward. For I have not been give assurance that I will never struggle or doubt or feel like my world is spinning out of control. I have not been given the secret to never being afraid or to get whatever I want. But I have been given a word that reminds me what to do when I do feel afraid, when I am doubtful, when I feel like everything is upside down.
I can choose to believe. I can make that choice over and over.