(One Word): 2017

Had I known how the events of last year were going to flip my life upside down, I would have been far more nervous about embracing my #OneWord. I probably would have been very wary of the whole concept.

2016’s word was unbound.

And 2016 undoubtedly was full of un-binding. So much so that I couldn’t even begin to list examples.

Every bit of the growth required from becoming unbound was beneficial, though often painful. Growing pains are real, y’all.

Last year also brought a secondary word with it—brave.

All year long, people told me I was brave, encouraged me to keep being brave. But being brave is hard because it mostly means doing things afraid—with your heart threatening to march out of your chest, your knees knocking, and your stomach turning flips.

Frankly. I got sick and tired of being brave. There’s a page in one of my notebooks where I scrawled in large, frustrated letters “I’m tired of being BRAVE” after someone sent me a text telling me I am brave.


I was DONE with brave by the time December rolled around.
Then my sister gave me a ring for Christmas that was engraved with the words “Be Brave.”

This ring, that phrase from the bravest person I know right now—my sister who is fighting a ridiculously rare cancer and all that it brings with it. Those two words inscribed on a piece of metal that sits wrapped around my left pointer finger on a daily basis have given me permission to continue living unbound—even when it means doing so in Texas rather than South Carolina.

In my Unbound blog last year, I referenced the story of Lazarus being raised from the grave. Can you imagine him awakening to the grave clothes binding him? Did he have to be loosed from them? Did they fall off on their own? I don’t know. But the image that came to mind as I asked God for an explanation of “unbound” was of Lazarus being shed of his grave clothes. Strips of cloth being loosened from his wrists, falling from his head and around his shoulders, piling around his feet.

He was unbound from death.

I was being unbound from fear, anxiety, depression.

That kind of freedom is exhilarating, for sure—but it requires walking in a new way and changing how you’ve thought about the world around you. When you’re stuck in darkness and suddenly there’s a glorious light filling the space you’ve occupied for a significant amount of time—you squint; you allow your eyes to adjust to the brightness.



It seems as though I’ve been squinting an awful lot over the last year—staring at brilliantly lit truths that have been revealed until my eyes have adjusted to the reality—truths that reveal who God is and how He sees me as His daughter.

As the new year approached, I was actively seeking my word for 2017. Within a few days, I thought I’d found it, but I didn’t tell anyone. When I got back to Texas, Anna asked me if I knew what my word was.

“I think so—but I don’t want it. I’m already sick of it.”

What is it?” she asked

“Brave,” I exasperatedly spit out.

Brave.

It fit. I’m going to need some brave this year.

But as the first week of 2017 passed, it didn’t feel like it was quite the right word.
I made lists of words that came to mind. I looked up their meanings, their origins. None of them stuck.

I stopped trying to figure it out. I thought maybe brave was it after all.
Then a few nights ago, I was sitting at the kitchen table and it struck me. Like unbound, I’m not even sure how it came about, but suddenly the word was in my spirit and I knew it was the one. As the word planted itself in my mind, I scrawled it on a notecard and wrote the reference to one of the verses I tucked into my heart at the beginning of last year—Romans 7:6—underneath it.

Immediately, words started forming in my mind and I flipped the card over to write then down:

When you become free, the ties that once bound you, that held you captive—whether mentally, physically, or spiritually—must be untied, unbound. Once they’re unbound, they must be released, because even if they no longer bind you, you cannot be truly free unless you let them go.

 

Consider this: Let’s say Lazarus gets a little help from his friends with unbinding himself from his grave clothes. But he’s eventually left standing outside the tomb. What if he ended up with a fistful or two of the cloth that had bound him in death and the darkness of the tomb. What does he do? Take off walking around town with those (smelly) strips of fabric in his hands? Carry them around for the rest of his days?

Or does he drop them as he steps away from the tomb?

Does he cast them aside?

Does he release them from his possession?

I may have been unbound from the chains of depression, and I may be walking a new path, but there are still many things—material possessions, messed-up thought processes, and comfort-zone coping mechanisms to start with—that I’m still holding onto. When you’ve been held captive for a while, freedom is a bit intimidating.

But living in-between captivity and freedom is not where I want to settle in—and if I sit back and don’t step into 2017 with the intention of working toward fully becoming who I was created to be, then I will likely remain in that spot.

I’ve come too far to keep holding onto those old rags.

They’ve got to go.

Which means I have to let them go.

So I’m stepping into my RELEASE year.

Unbound.

I wanted a pretty word—like grace or bravery or joy. A word that didn’t need a lot of explanation, a word that would roll off the tongue effortlessly.

As 2015 wound down, I found myself considering a word that I would carry with me throughout 2016, a word to filter life through in the coming year. This is the first time I’ve been proactive and intentional about choosing a word. Usually, I latch onto a word a few weeks or months into the year—or see my word strung along as a theme at the end of the year.
I wanted a pretty word—like grace or bravery or joy. A word that didn’t need a lot of explanation, a word that would roll off the tongue effortlessly.
We don’t always get what we want, though. None of the pretty words would stick. So, I waited.
Two weeks ago, as I was driving home, I was pondering words again, but couldn’t settle on any particular one. Finally, I half-prayed that God would reveal the word I needed. Within minutes, a word dropped into my heart: “unbound.”

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Unbound?
You mean “free”? It means the same thing, just a little prettier—a little more palatable on the tongue.
No?
Unbound.
Okay.
Why? Why “unbound”?
I didn’t get an answer immediately. A few days later though, an image of Lazarus standing outside his tomb, having been called back from death by Jesus himself, ragged strips of cloth unraveled from his body. And just days after this, a blogger I follow spoke these words to me: “I can imagine you tossing off the ropes that bind and taking flight.”

Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.” (John 11:38-44)

Unbound.
Alive again.
Free.
Called back from death and darkness.
Just a few days after this word—unbound—fell into my heart, I read a section titled “It Was For Freedom” in Think Differently, Lead Differently by Bob Hamp. In this section, Hamp relates the truth that freedom comes when the Spirit of the Lord is present and the reality that, often, we become prisoners to thinking that freedom comes from the absence of a behavior or thought pattern:

The Bible is very clear that freedom is not the absence of something; it is the presence of Someone…Where the Spirit of the Lord is…there is freedom. Freedom is not about the control of impulse and behavior; it is about the fulfillment of identity and destiny. Your identity and destiny cannot be restored apart from the presence of God on Earth. Freedom is about being restored to live life as the man or woman God created and redeemed you to be…it is about unleashing the good things for which you were made. (p.40)

Having been bound in the prison of depression, anxiety, disbelief, etc since April 2013, every expression of this freedom—the living, breathing, Spirit of the Lord—was stifled. Bound.
My words were bound.
My mind was bound.
My faith was bound.
My relationships were bound.
My hands, and the language within them, were bound.
My calling was bound.
I was bound,
tethered to the lies, tied to the weight that was drowning me.
Since September, God’s been hard at work on me—drawing me out of that darkness, freeing my mind, heart, and soul.
He has unbound my words from silence.
He has unbound my mind from fear, depression, and anxiety.
He has unbound my faith from lack of trust and inability to view Him as a Father.
He has unbound the relationships I isolated myself from.
He has unbound my hands and the voice within them from the chains of missed opportunity.
He has unbound my calling from perceived death.
I am unbound because He is “unleashing the good things for which [I was made],” and I am becoming who He created and redeemed me to be.

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Playlist
No Longer Slaves, Bethel Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8TkUMJtK5k

~*~

I’m linking up with Kelly Smith over at Mrs. Disciple for the first #FridayFive of 2016. Join us for some encouragement to start the new year?