Say It More: “I Don’t Know” (And My One Word for 2018)

One Word?

Have you picked One Word for 2018? Or made any New Year resolutions?

Deciding what to work on for a new year can be confusing. (See 3 Steps to Choose One Word.) There are so many good things to choose from. How do we know which things will be helpful when we don’t know what the year will deliver?

It’s a mystery.

None of us knows the exact tools we’ll need for 2018.

It can be uncomfortable at best. We don’t want to be unprepared, be caught looking stupid, or miss out on good opportunities.

But at its worst, the mystery can even feel dangerous. We’re vulnerable to the unknown. If we misread warning signs or aren’t ready for new challenges, will our destinies be changed forever?

Anxiety about the future can put pressure on us to learn more, to try harder, to have more self-discipline in 2018 than we did in 2017.

Who can live joyfully under such anxiety?

My One Word 2018: Mystery

Instead of fighting the unknown, I want to team up with it. I’m choosing “Mystery” as my One Word for 2018.


How can I practice Mystery this year?

I’m starting with this: “I don’t know.”

I want to say “I don’t know” more often, not to dumb down what I do know, but to acknowledge there is more that I don’t know. And to make peace with that.

2 Things I Don’t Know for Sure

  • GOD

God is too big for my brain. While we can know many things about God—he is grace, he is beauty, he is love—we know so little. His ways, his thoughts, are beyond our understanding. We shine our brightest when we don’t put words in his mouth, but just let his words come out of ours.

Knowing that he loves me and that I love him is enough. Christ himself is the mystery I know.

“…The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory. It’s that simple. That is the substance of our Message.”
Colossians 1:27

  • WHY

I also don’t know why most things happen. Why do some healthy people get cancer and some abusers live to 100? Why can one woman never conceive a child while another woman has a dozen kids? Why does God seem to wait so long to answer some prayers yet answer others so quickly?

I don’t know why. Nor do I have to explain it.

“Just as you’ll never understand the mystery of life forming in a pregnant woman, so you’ll never understand the mystery at work in all that God does.”
Ecclesiastes 11:5

My Asks

So as I practice Mystery as a spiritual discipline in 2018, I ask God for:

  • More peace in the unknown (which is basically all of life)
  • Less fear about having less control
  • Greater hold on God and less dependency on me
  • More freedom to follow the mysteries

God will let me know what I need to know, when I need to know it.

Life Is a Mystery

I’ll still make plans. Even though I don’t have all the details to work with. The outcomes are up to God, not me.

And I’ll still strive to learn more. Even though information isn’t the end goal. More knowledge is a marvel but not a salvation.

I’ll accept that life is a mystery. A beautiful one. Sometimes a startling one. But in the end, always a good one when Love leads the way.

And everything else?
I don’t know.
I don’t have to.

“Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own.”
Proverbs 3:5

* * *

What about you? Are you a mystery lover already (not me)? Or do you like to know as much as you can (that’s me)? Are you choosing one word this year? Please share in the comments.

Want more? Here’s a short article on Embracing Mystery at Spirituality and Practice.


Previous One Words:

48 thoughts on “Say It More: “I Don’t Know” (And My One Word for 2018)

  1. Michele Morin

    This is the perfect choice of one word to honor your “five-ness.” Blessings to you as you lean into the “I don’t knows” and rejoice in the mystery as you pursue answers — and more importantly, as you pursue God! I look forward to your 2018 ponderings.

  2. Joanne Viola

    I love that you are saying “I don’t know”. I find saying those words relieves me of so much pressure. I am so grateful I do not need to know all things but only know the One who does! I look forward to reading on how this unfolds in your life. Blessings!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Joanne. It is freeing to not have to know, yes? It’s also humbling. Freedom and humility are definitely wonderful gifts to bring with us into the new year!

  3. Heather Hart

    My father-in-law (a pastor) used to always say “it’s a mystery” when talking about spiritual things he didn’t understand. I always loved that about him. He didn’t try to explain it in a super spiritual way that no one else would understand. He was just honest about not having all the answers. Love your word, and your reasoning behind it.

    I don’t choose one word for the year, but a phrase. And this year my phrase is , “Point to Jesus.”

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      It sounds like I would have enjoyed listening to and talking with your f-i-l, Heather. A wise man to know he doesn’t know everything. It’s off-putting to be around those who DO think they know everything. We all have a few of those people in our lives. 🙂

      Point to Jesus is a beautiful phrase you’ve chosen for the year. What a year it will be for you!

  4. floyd

    Sounds like a wise way to live all the years of life. There is no peace any other way in this life. Your word and words are an encouragement to me.

    My one word is the same one that I might wrestle with forever… and you know what it is!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, I love your word, Floyd, and it’s my goal to incorporate it into my own word this year as well. Humility is definitely a necessary trait if I’m going to be comfortable with mystery. We can’t stress humility enough. I love that I connect it with you so strongly; that’s a great compliment to you (but don’t let it go to your head, ha).

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, I love that about January too, Debbie. It’s so fun seeing what words other people have chosen for the year. We can learn so much about each other just through that one word choice.

  5. Lynn Severance

    I think through many ‘words’ that come to mind for, as you say, there are many words that are ‘good’ and would be a meaningful focus.

    I wait until I feel God’s peace about a word, that this is where He wants me to live for the year, and it simply feels ‘right’.

    Last year (2017) my word was “Awe” and in all areas of my life there was immense ‘awe’ at how He brought me through (and in a couple of cases that extends into this year). He oversaw it all and I was and remain in “awe” of Him.

    This year my word is “Wisdom” – the wisdom that only He can bring as I travel with Him through the days ahead.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Awe was definitely an appropriate word for your big year, Lynn! I’m sure God will continue to awe us all this year as well. Wisdom is a beautiful choice, friend. You already have so much wisdom…a truly wise person knows to continue seeking it.

  6. Barbara H.

    So far I have never felt led to choose a word for the year, though I know many people are blessed by it. I’m not entirely comfortable with mystery, yet I know there are things we cannot know now. There are things that, even if God did explain, we wouldn’t get, just as our kids don’t always understand why we do certain things in their lives or require certain things of them. But what we do know about Him from His Word and our experience with Him gives us peace to trust Him for all we don’t know.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m not very comfortable with mystery either. Could make for an interesting year. 😉 I wasn’t sure that I would even do a one-word this year, but this kept coming up and I got enough affirmation for it. So here I am.
      Truth I hold on to –> “But what we do know about Him from His Word and our experience with Him gives us peace to trust Him for all we don’t know.” Thanks, Barbara.

  7. June

    This is great, Lisa! I so enjoyed watching your “story” unfold last year – 2018 will be just as exciting! For the first time in several years, I didn’t choose a word this year. Rather I’m working with a concept, Rhythm of Rest, and setting up a framework for the year with scripture, 2 Cor 4:16-18. 2018 is still a mystery but one thing we do know, God is in control! Happy New Year, friend!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Ooh, Rhythm of Rest sounds delightful, June! And I love the verses you chose. This brings such comfort: “18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” Blessings as you settle in this rhythm.

  8. Brenda

    ooh, what a fun word, Lisa. 🙂 I’m excited to join you in the mystery this year. Can’t wait to see how God teaches you through this focus. I’ve never heard this one-word before. 🙂 And, “I don’t know” is a perfect phrase for the year. Because, as you’ve so eloquently stated…we don’t have to know. We know the Know-er. 🙂 — Happy New Year, friend!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’ll be holding on tight to the Know-er with this word. 🙂 I’m looking forward to it as well. It’s kind of hard to predict! But I suppose that’s the point of it. Happy New Year to you too, Brenda!

  9. Laura Thomas

    Oh, what a fabulous word, Lisa! Beautiful mystery. You caught my attention with “less fear about having less control”… and that’s where my word for 2018 “FAITH” comes into play, too. Here’s to an exciting New Year! Stopping by from #saltandlight 🙂

  10. David

    Dear Lisa

    Cool word for the year!

    I have a love/hate relationship with mystery. I want to know, understand everything! Now! I am greedy. On the other hand, I know that it is only in that uncomfortable space, abiding with the mystery, that real learning occurs. You don’t really learn anything by unfolding or building up from what you already know.

    I approve!

    My theme for the year could be expressed in a word, but I’ve chosen to express it in two: “born” and “again” (see latest post).

    Happy New Year!


    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I wonder if you’re a type 5 on the Enneagram, David. I *think* that’s what I am, and your statements really reflect me here: “I want to know, understand everything! Now! I am greedy.” 🙂 I don’t think of myself as greedy for material possessions, but I am definitely greedy for knowledge. Which isn’t a terrible thing, I suppose. But I’d rather be content, while still learning more. 🙂

      Just read your post and born again is a fabulous choice!

  11. Stacey Pardoe

    I so appreciate your wisdom, Lisa. Isn’t it funny how with each passing year, God humbles us by showing us just how much we don’t know, how much we don’t have control over? Letting life remain a mystery of sorts, and trusting God in the process, is a freeing place to be. We don’t have to have our acts together in this place, and we don’t have to have our lives figured out. This was the perfect post for me to read today. I’ve had a year of trying to determine my plans more than ever. Ultimately, some of my plans came to pass, but many did not. There is such calm assurance in knowing that it’s ok to let 2018 remain a mystery and simply following my Father each step of the way. This blessed me today. Thank you!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m so thankful that we don’t have to have our act together here! Great insight, Stacey. I’m glad this post was also meant for you today. God is good to bring us to things we need each day. So here’s to the mysteries of 2018 to both of us! Blessings to you.

  12. Dianne Thornton

    It’s freeing not to feel like we must know or understand everything. I agree, knowledge can be a marvel. But it is definitely not Salvation. Thanks for encouraging us to rest in the mystery of the unknown.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I need to paste it on my forehead that knowledge is not salvation. It’s so easy to trust in what we know, when what we know is really so small. Have a blessed new year, Dianne!

  13. Jean Wise

    I love your word. I know since you commented on my post you know my word is enough. What I like about mystery is knowing that God is so much MORE than I can ever imagine or know. He is mystery. He is magnificent. And knowing at this point in life, I am more comfortable not knowing, of holding the in-between, of staying in the liminal place until the next step appears. All part of mystery. May this word bless you this year and bring you closer to God!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’ll return to your comment, Jean. Lots of wisdom here: “And knowing at this point in life, I am more comfortable not knowing, of holding the in-between, of staying in the liminal place until the next step appears. All part of mystery.” Thank you!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Aw, I know you’re right, Lux! God has amazing things planned for each of us in 2018; we just need to walk with him to see what they are. Happy New Year to you too!

  14. Carlie

    What a profound word and truth, Lisa! I love it! My word for the year is ‘still’. When I’m caught in a ‘mystery’, and I don’t understand what is happening, I need only ‘stand still and consider the wondrous works of God’. He is a good, good Father and He knows best, and that’s all that I need to know. Blessing to you as you embrace mystery this year.

  15. Jodie

    I think that’s the thing I like best about being older…I’m fine with saying I don’t know more and more. And what a fabulous word for the year!!

  16. Lesley

    This is a great word for the year, Lisa! I’m with you-I struggle when there are things I don’t know or I can’t understand why. Accepting that God is beyond our understanding and that we’re not in control is not easy, but it sounds like it will be an interesting journey. I look forward to reading about what you learn this year!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Lesley. I’m one of those people who would rather know things up front so I can take my time getting used to them. But God doesn’t always work that way. lol. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of mysteries he’ll unfold in the year to come for each of us!

  17. Ruth

    “We shine our brightest when we don’t put words in his mouth, but just let his words come out of ours.” AMEN, sister, Amen!!!
    My word-for-the-year post is still in rough draft form, but basically, 2016 was Listen, 2017 was Dwell, and this year is Speak, in that order. We need to listen to the Lord first, dwelling in Him, before we will have the words that He wants us to speak.

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