My Weird Word of the Year


It seems as if God gives words to some people in a flash of clarity. To others, the word filters into their conscience and quietly settles into a corner where it gently raises its hand and calls out, “Pick me!” each time one wonders, “What word should I dwell on this year?”

The word that has slipped quietly into the corner of my mind might seem like a strange one. Constrain.

It waved at me from the hymnal in church on Sabbath as we sang “Come Thou Font of Every Blessing.” As I pondered why we sang a hymn that 95% of the congregation likely couldn’t understand (my mind asks the strangest questions), the second stanza tripped me up with the whole raising of the Ebenezer (I immediately pictured Ebenezer Scrooge hoisted aloft by an exuberant congregation).

But the third stanza caught my breath. “Oh to grace how great a debtor/Daily I’m constrained to be!” Tears threatened to pop out and my creaky singing voice clanged to a stop as I read the remaining lines. “Let that grace now like a fetter/Bind my wandering heart to Thee.” My wandering heart. My wandering mind.

A sinner sitting in church with a wandering mind and heart. Yep. That describes me perfectly. All too often I forget that I have run up huge debts (mostly from trying to do things on my own) and I must rely on God’s grace to not only make up for my shortcomings, but to keep drawing me closer and closer to God.

“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it/Prone to leave the God I love;/Here’s my heart, O take and seal it/Seal it for Thy courts above.” To translate into plain English, one might say, “Father, I wander and run all over the place even though I say I love you and want you to guide me. So, once again, here’s my heart—keep working on it, shaping it and fashioning it to beat in tune with yours so that what breaks your heart breaks mine.”

I love words with double meanings because, well, they mean twice as much as words with simple definitions. Homographs—words that have the same spelling but two completely different definitions—fascinate me because often the different meanings seem diametrically opposed. For example, cleave and cleave. Spelled the same, pronounced the same, yet one means to join and one means to rip asunder.

Constrain, the word whispering from the pages of my hymnbook, has two distinct meanings as well. It can mean ‘to compel’ and also ‘to restrain’. The first denotes a forceful action; the second brings to mind a captive.

The former meaning of the word enjoyed popularity from Shakespearean times until at least 1757 when Robert Robinson penned the hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” The word shows up in 2 Corinthians 5:14 in the KJV of the Bible: “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:”

The Amplified version says, “For the love of Christ controls and compels us, because we have concluded this, that One died for all, therefore all died;”

In recent months I have recognized within myself the need for more constraint (restraint). I need to listen more and talk less. I need to allow room for the Holy Spirit to whisper the right words in my heart before I blurt out MY ‘great’ idea or opinion. Thus, I want God to constrain me.

Following up on last year’s word—deeper—I also see the need for divine compelling in my life. If I had my druthers, I sit around and read books all day long and keep my relationships shallow and my involvement minimal. But God has shown me that going deeper has its rewards.

I need divine constraint in my life as spouse, teacher, friend and #caregiver. #oneword365 Click To Tweet

This year, I pray that God continues to work with me to compel and resstrain me so that I can truly say at the end of the year that my heart’s tune comes from a ‘melodious sonnet/Sung by flaming tongues above.” May I feel more firmly fixed on the mount of God’s unchanging love.

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
by Robert Robinson
Come Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of God’s unchanging love

Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I’m come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let that grace now like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

There you have it—the story behind my seemingly weird word choice for 2016. What about you? Have you chosen a word for study and pondering for 2016?

Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a ‘recovering cancer caregiver’ who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

Please note: We reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Constraint and constraint! Never thought of it this way before while singing this favorite hymn! Thanks for sharing 🙂
    Alice William recently posted…6 Words for 2016My Profile

  • I couldn’t follow everything you wrote, because English is my second language. However, I totally understand why you were compelled to use this word for 2016. By the way, I love homographs too but find them a bit hard in English, especially when they are pronounced differently.
    Astrid recently posted…New Year’s Resolutions for 2016 (Plus Looking Back at 2015)My Profile

  • That is a different word, but I like it. I was out last night with friends at an event called “Beer and Hymns” and we actually sang “Come Thou Font of Every Blessing.” Those words get me too. My word this year is “embrace”
    Tara recently posted…Sunday Blessings 108My Profile

  • Awesome, Anita! Excited to see how this plays out in your writing this year…mine is JOY and unlike yours, it just kept popping up everywhere, still is!! I love what you wrote about that hymn; we sing it in church also and it has puzzled me as well…your words sure did explain a lot for me! Thanks for sharing!

    • I love hymns, but so often we just sing them without really contemplating the lyrics (especially if the lyrics are written in old English 😉 ). I’m glad I was able to ‘translate’ a little for you!
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…God Makes Up for the Years the Locust Have EatenMy Profile

  • Hi there, I’m next to you on the linkup today. That is my favorite hymn and I’ve written on those very words – “prone to wander”. Big sigh of gratefulness every time I find another who struggles in the same ways I do. Constrain is a great word for this year. I enjoyed reading. Thanks so much!

  • When I saw the title of your blog, I was curious to find out what your word would be. After reading your post today, I absolutely love the word “constrain”. God always knows what he is doing when he chooses a word for us and what might seem weird to you because the word doesn’t connote joy, love or something more mainstream is perfect for you. I am interested in seeing how this unfolds this year. I wrote about my word today on the blog – Hope!

    Happy New Year and good to be out and about in the writing world again.
    Mary Geisen recently posted…When A Season of Transitions Blooms into HopeMy Profile

  • Anita…It seems God has a unique word for everyone because everyone is unique to Him in His eyes. I really love your word and whenever I see you in a linkup, I am reminder of my caregiver. This January makes it 5 years that I have been blessed to have her helping me. Even better, she loves the Lord with all her heart. I am so thankful that God has blessed me with her. Thanks for sharing your heart and your thoughts in church:) Blessings to you and yours in 2016! recently posted…How to have Hope while Hurting during the HolidaysMy Profile

    • How wonderful that you have a caregiver who blesses you and has been able to minister to you in many ways! May your new year be filled with the peace of knowing God and drawing nearer and nearer to him.
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…God Makes Up for the Years the Locust Have EatenMy Profile

  • I love that old hymn and we sing it too – what I love more is the fact that someone else thinks of Scrooge on the verse. 😉 My word reveal is tomorrow’s post!
    Susan Shipe recently posted…tasty tuesday more lentil soupMy Profile

    • ;). I’m glad I’m not the only visual one who comes up with crazy mind pictures!

  • Love this Anita!!! Great song. Great word. I’m still waiting on the right word. I have several in mind. I’ll let you know when I land on one. Thanks for posting on my “stuckinindiana” Facebook page too!

  • I love that hymn, Anita! that’s a good word choice. I love when God uses small things….in our wandering… to bring us back into focus of what He wants to do in us and through us! It will be exciting to see what God does in that word choice this year! 🙂
    Rachel recently posted…Venturing into 2016 ~ One Word for One YearMy Profile

  • Oh, this word nerd is absolutely in love with your word for 2016. It sounds as if it chose you! That stanza of Come Thou Fount is in my head at least once a week because of the “prone to wander,” but I’ve never before pondered the duality of the word “constrain.” Thanks for opening that up for us!
    Michele Morin recently posted…The Endless Downward Pull of TemptationMy Profile

  • I love that hymn, and that particular stanza as well. Oh, we are so prone to wander, aren’t we? I literally laughed out loud when I read how you pictured Ebenezer Scrooge being “hoisted aloft by an exuberant congregation.” I will never sing that song now without picturing that!

    And your word-I wouldn’t so much call it weird as I would call it unique. That sounds nicer, don’t you think? I mean, anyone can choose joy, gratitude…ahem…service (mine)…but constraint is a unique word with a unique meaning–especially the fact that it means two opposite things (I always wondered about that cleave thing…like how does a meat cleaver put something back together once you’ve whacked the chicken apart?)

    Loved reading this Anita, and I’m excited for you to discover all the constraining God has in store for you in 2016.

  • Pingback: Meet the Ultimate Blood Donor – Blessed (but Stressed)()

  • Pingback: Do You Need to Check Your Coffee Grinder’s Settings? – Blessed (but Stressed)()

  • Pingback: Lessons Learned in January | Blessed (but Stressed)()

  • Pingback: Living Forward is Triage for Life | Blessed (but Stressed)()

  • Pingback: From Holeness to Wholeness | Blessed (but Stressed)()

  • Pingback: Words Have the Power to Heal or to Break | Blessed (but Stressed)()

  • Pingback: What I Learned from Rhubarb Pie Might Surprise You - Anita Ojeda()