As you read this, it will be January – the beginning of a new year. And as we start the new year, I want to suggest that you not do as I usually do - rush into planning and looking ahead at all you want to do and even need to do in 2019. Instead, pause for a moment and look back at 2018. Celebrate your joys, mourn your losses, and shaking your head at the wonder of it all.
This past week I ran across an article that listed 20 questions you can use to reflect on the year that has passed. Here they are:
1) What was the single best thing that happened this past year?
2) What was the single most challenging thing that happened?
3) What was an unexpected joy this past year?
4) What was an unexpected obstacle?
5) Pick three words to describe this past year.
6) Pick three words your partner would use to describe your year—don’t ask them; guess based on how you think your spouse sees you.
7) Pick three words your partner would use to describe their year—again, without asking.
8) What were the best books you read, or movies you saw, this year?
9) Who were your most valuable relationships with?
10) What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?
11) In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?
12) In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?
13) In what way(s) did you grow physically (how did you improve your overall health)?
14). In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?
15) What was the most enjoyable part of your work (both professionally and at home)?
16) What was the most challenging part of your work (both professionally and at home)?
17) What was the single biggest time waster in your life this past year?
18) What was the best way you used your time this past year?
19) What was the biggest thing you learned this past year?
20) Create a phrase or statement that describes this past year for you.
I want to suggest that you take this list of questions, a cup of coffee or tea, and then go sit in a quiet place, by yourself, and write your answers in a notebook or your own journal.
After you have finished, you can simply reflect on your answers, or you can engage family members (or even a close friend or two) by having them answer the questions and then, together, you can discuss your answers (both yours and theirs) and your past years. Take some time to review, to contemplate, to meditate.
Some of you may figure that reflecting on the past is a waste of time, since what is past is past. And shouldn’t we be busy with moving forward, getting on with life. Shouldn’t we as Christians, be focusing on what needs to be done, the work God has called us to do, building the Kingdom of God (God’s community of love) here on earth? Yes, we need to look at what we need to do, at what God calls us to do in 2019.
But, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The man who said that was a philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist named George Santayana. And while his wise words have often been altered (i.e. - those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.), I believe there is truth in Santayana’s words.
So, I think it is helpful to look at the past year to see if we (as individuals and as a community) moved closer, or further away from God’s Kingdom coming to earth. Armed with that awareness, we can better plan for what we (as individuals and as a community) want and need to do as we move into a new year to make sure we do all we can to move us closer to the Kingdom arriving in its fullness.
As we begin another new year, my hope and prayer is that we will not forget the past – I don’t mean that we will dwell on it or in it. But that we will learn from it, and use it, with the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, as a springboard into God’s future for all humankind.
Blessings and Peace,
And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. – Jesus in Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 12:29-31