2023 in a Word

by DanWolgemuth on January 6, 2023

Do you do it? Do you select a “word for the year”?

I went through a season a few years ago, where I would select a word that I anticipated would be an area of focus during the coming year. Perhaps you’ve done the same.

The origin of the official practice of naming a word of the year stems back to 1990, and the American Dialect Society. A man named Allan Metcalf was the first to collect a group of word-geeks to evaluate the designation of a word of the year. Much like Time Magazine identifies a Person of the Year, Metcalf thought that a Word of the Year (WOTY) would be quirky and descriptive.

The opening volley for this concept went to “bushlips” as a reference to President George Bush’s famous line, “Read my lips: no new taxes”. A failed promise that he had made while on the campaign trail.

At some point, the WOTY became less retrospective and more forward facing, as in Word For The Year (WFTY). A word of anticipation. Something you can have somebody embroider on Etsy for you. Something that inspires your followers on Instagram. Something that will garner lots of “likes” on FaceBook.

I speak about this as a person who tended to do just that. Great words, intended to blend nicely with New Year’s Resolutions.

Peace. Hope. Abide. Revival… to name a few of my past entries.

But alas, a few years ago I neglected the process, and neglect turned into a recurring habit. One that I anticipated repeating in 2023… until. I guess, until Mary passed along a devotional from Paul David Tripp. In it he writes this, “If you were to ask what God is doing, what he is working on between the “already” of your justification, and the “not yet” of your sanctification, the answer could be given in a word: change.”


Now that’s not the word I would have enthusiastically embraced for the prospects of 2023. But in some profoundly spiritual way… it’s what I think God has chosen for me.

Not in a prophetic, or dire kind of way, but in an invitational way that embraces the fact that when Jesus told His disciples to “follow me”, He was inviting them into change.

From who I naturally am, to who He has designed me to be. From a desire for comfort and ease, to an invitation for growth and transformation. Yes, transformation as a 67-year-old man. From who I was, to who I can be by the grace, mercy, love, and power of God.

My story of transformation doesn’t go back to an overtly rebellious teenager, but to a selfish, and cowardly retiree, liberated and empowered to be a vibrant witness for Jesus. Now. In 2023.  

So there you have it. I’m not sure it embroiders well, but it resonates deeply.


Even at 67. Especially at 67.

Like John the Baptist… more of Him, less of me. Change.

            “Remember not the former things,

                        nor consider the things of old.

            Behold, I am doing a new thing;

                        now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

            I will make a way in the wilderness

                        and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:18–19, ESV)

Change! A new thing. By invitation. In anticipation. Out of the desert, a river.

May it be so.

Happy 2023.

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