My 2017 Word / by Liz Brown

Every year (okay, the last year or two) I've chosen a word to embody that year. This year it was "fearless" (more on that later). Late in 2015, it was clear that "fearless" was supposed to be my word.

This year it hasn't been quite so clear. I haven't been able to come up with a word. Not for lack of trying. I've been pondering what I've been learning recently: humility and grace and forgiveness and self-care and worth. But none of them seemed quite right. Then suddenly, in my plain little black office chair, it came to me: love.

I didn't want this word. I tried to think of another word to replace it in my mind. Love is too cheesy, I thought. Folks will think I'm just hunting for a fellow or a ring. It's not a creative word. It's overused. It's a poetic emotion, but it's not a particularly clever or poetic word. You can do better, Liz But can I?

I don't know why this word came to me. Maybe it's because I've been playing Noah Gundersen's "Ledges" in my head today (and in my car afterward): "I want to learn how to love, not just the feeling. Bear all the consequences."

I don't think I've had much practice in loving well (with the exception of one customer who I prayed for grace and love with every rude comment--the hardest thing, to bite my quick tongue), and it's a daunting thing to ask for. I've seen a bit of that hard love as I've looked into eyes that are breaking. I've seen secondhand heartache. But for the most part, my life is easy. My friends are kind. So are my coworkers. So are my roommates. Loving them is easy. Is it really love then? Is a convenient friendliness, a love without sacrifice, a comfortable love: is that really love at all? An easy road won't pave the way to a loving soul. This year will be difficult, but the cost is worth it. It has to be.

And yet: couldn't I find a better word? Or at the least: an easier one?

Asking for love is also asking to cultivate patience and kindness. A lack of envy. Humility. Rooting for others. Kind words. Graciousness. Selflessness. Slowness of anger. Forgiveness. Like, God, couldn't I pick just one of those? Love, in all its beautiful facets and outpourings, is incredibly daunting.

Not that I've mastered bravery in these past 12 months or that I'll master what it means to love well in the next 12 months. But, goodness, do I want to try. Even if it's hard. Even if folks thing I'm cheesy or overly-romantic (though can you really say that about a gal who lives in overalls?)--though that's not what most of love means. I want to lean into that word, in the deepest, grittiest sense of the definition of it, and use it as a reminder to love simply and deeply, daily and well. Even when it's hard. Especially when it's hard. God, help me.

I didn't know what I was getting into when I asked to be brave, and this year I'm more cautious in my prayers. Discomfort and difficultly are often the way to a beautiful soul. I don't take it lightly anymore. But I want to live well, and so much of living well is loving deeply. I don't know if I'm ready for this year or this word, but I'm going forth regardless.

"I want to learn how to love,
Not just the feeling.
Bear all the consequences."