As I sat down to write this article, my 13-year-old daughter looked over my shoulder at the laptop and, on seeing the title on my page, ‘Word of the year 2024’, proceeded to tell me that the official Oxford Word of the Year for 2023 is “rizz”.
I confess I’ve never heard the word. Not surprising. These days I’m constantly reliant on my children to keep me abreast of popular culture.
The Oxford Dictionary defines “rizz” as “pertaining to someone’s ability to attract another person through style, charm, or attractiveness.” It’s derived from the word charisma.
TBH (“to be honest”, for any readers that aren’t up with popular culture like I am), I would have thought the world was a bit tired of rizz.
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As I reflect on 2023, I’m tired of shiny things. I’m tired of shallow. I want substance. I want meaning.
I would have thought we’d had enough of following people because they’re attractive or charming. I would have thought that perhaps we were ready for something, or even someone, of substance. I would have thought we were looking for people who didn’t suck our attention to their own rizz, but rather helped us look beyond ourselves.
Perhaps it’s just me? As I reflect on 2023, I’m tired of shiny things. I’m tired of shallow. I want substance. I want meaning.
And for me, one of the keys to focusing my attention on things with substance and meaning is to make the space to wonder.
My word for 2024 is “wonder”.
We need the shift in perspective that wondering provides.
In my corner of the world, and at my stage in life (three kids, a mortgage, rising costs of living), people who wonder, who dream a little, who have a bent towards optimism, don’t seem to fit very well. There is too much pain, too much anxiety, too many challenges.
Yet I wonder whether all of these challenges should actually drive us toward wonder, rather than away from it.
Do the challenges of our lives cause us to take our eyes off Jesus? When things are hard, is our first response to seize back control of our lives? If that’s our first response, rather than pressing deeper into Jesus and inviting the Spirit to work, then perhaps we need the shift in perspective that wondering provides.
When we wonder at Jesus and the majesty of God, we disrupt our preoccupation with ourselves.
Recently I’ve been reading Simon Ponsonby’s Amazed By Jesus. In recent times I have been conscious of how little the churches and faith communities I am part of focus on God’s character and invite me to respond with awe and wonder.
Ponsonby says of Jesus, “When we truly see him, when we encounter him and when we comprehend who he is and what he has done for us, there is a sense that we are knocked sideways, flabbergasted, astonished, poleaxed, overwhelmed … or in modern idiom: mind-blown. Mild interest about Jesus shows you’ve not yet met him. Jesus is amazing.”
When we wonder at Jesus and the majesty of God, we disrupt our preoccupation with ourselves. We learn to see reality as God sees it. We learn to project the future of God’s new creation into our present circumstances.
The Christmas story is a perfect example. There is a sense of wonder to it. In a little town, in a stable, amongst the animals, a child is born. The Magi from far-away lands travel, guided by a star, to come to see him. Why? Because of a sense of wonder. A sense that perhaps this child could draw the world out of its malaise. Perhaps this child could usher in something new.
Many of us allow ourselves a few moments at Christmas to wonder. Yet God is worthy of our wonder every moment of every day. So wonder is not only a word for 2024; it is also my practise for 2024.
Who among the gods is like you, Lord?
Who is like you — majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory, working wonders? (Exodus 15:11)
Looking up. It’s a practise that helps me engage with God, breathe, pull myself out of the many things running through my mind.
I have a recurring memory from early in our marriage. We lived in a top-floor apartment, and I used to lie in bed early in the morning and look up through our window at the blue sky framed by a beautiful gum tree. That memory has an associated feeling of contentment for me.
We now live on the edge of a national park and I still practise that. I wake up in the morning and I look up at the blue sky and the gum trees to start my day.
Looking up. It’s a practise that helps me engage with God, breathe, pull myself out of the many things running through my mind. It helps create a space for wonder. And for me, wonder allows God to find a space in my mind, my heart, my day.
Six months after I started this practise of looking up, some bus shelter advertising caught my eye. It was promoting a campaign called LookUp.org.au. The home page of the campaign says, “Do you ever feel we are falling further into a world focused on our phones, our feet and the busyness of everyday life? One simple act might have the power to change your perspective. The science is in. Choosing to look up and out – either at our surroundings or each other – is good for our brains, our bodies, our relationships and our experiences of the world. Your decision to look up could unlock more than you think.” It seems God created us to look up, to wonder.
So my word for 2024, my desire for 2024, my practise for 2024, and my hope for 2024 is to wonder anew. To practise looking up and out, and to allow God to draw my attention back to Jesus. To stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene.
Ponsonby closes the first chapter of his book with these words: “Maybe there was a time when you did thrill, or fill with tears at the mention of [Jesus’] name – come back to that place again, come back to him.”
Jesus has plenty of “rizz”, but there is nothing shallow or showy about him. He is worthy of our wonder.
John Beckett is Founder and CEO of Seed. He is passionate about helping individuals and organisations to develop and articulate a clear sense of identity and purpose, and to find the places where their own stories fit with God’s story and God’s purposes. Find out more at seed.org.au.