When They Prayed
FROM THE BISHOP DAVID GRAVES   I chose the theme of our 2023 Annual Conference session, “When They Prayed,” based on Acts 4:31: “And when they had prayed, the place in which they ...
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Looking back and moving forward

December 11, 2020

“Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.” Hal Borland

Recently I have heard people speak of putting 2020 behind us as if the striking of the clock at midnight on December 31 (for those who are able to stay awake to witness this) will somehow flip a switch and everything will be different, new, and better. If only it were that easy!

We recognize our world is weary with all the happenings of 2020. I shared Hal Borland’s quote above to help us think about transitioning into the New Year. Let’s stop to think about what God has been (and is) teaching us individually and collectively. How do we use this knowledge, wisdom, and experience and what do we choose to take into the new year with us to continue to learn and grow? What is best to leave behind?

I don’t know about you, but I find the older I get the more reflective I become. The slowing down, the interruptions and disruptions (some very good ones) - all heightened by the pandemic - have caused me to take pause and dig deeper to see where God is at work, how I can be a part of it, and what He is teaching me through it all. Reflection has been key to this searching. 

One technique used for reflection is through “The Examen” originally taught by Ignatius of Loyola. This technique is a meaningful and intentional spiritual practice that one engages in daily to discover God’s presence and discern His direction. The Jesuits would enter into this time twice each day, at noon and in the evening. There are many variations and resources available to guide this time of prayerful reflection. The Upper Room offers a guided resource for this that can be found here. 

Reflection can be a look back over any period of time. You could reflect throughout the day, at the end of the day, week, month, season, etc. So what could it look like to reflect on an entire year (especially a year as unique as 2020)? Below is a sample list of questions to reflect upon to end each year with intentionality. The challenge for 2020, in many cases, is to reflect and explore beyond our “pandemic lens.” 
  1. What makes this year unforgettable? (second to the pandemic)
  2. What did you enjoy during this year?
  3. What/who is the one thing/person you’re grateful for?
  4. What’s your biggest win this year?
  5. What did you read/watch/listen to that impacted you the most this year?
  6. What did you worry about most and how did it turn out? (Studies show about 85% of what we worry about never happens.) 
  7. What was your biggest regret and why?
  8. What’s one thing you learned about yourself this past year?
  9. Where did you see God at work/feel His presence anew this year?
  10.  If you could go back to January 1, what advice would you give your past self? 
  11.  What did you learn in 2020 and what do you wish to take with you into 2021?
I have this list on the inside cover of my journal and I revisit it occasionally, taking time to be still and turn my thoughts to God’s sanctifying grace and how He is always working in me and through me. 

Looking back and moving forward is another sacred rhythm for me in being aware of what God is teaching me and where he is leading me. Perhaps you would like to join me in building this spiritual muscle through The Examen/reflection in new ways? 

The season of Advent brings to us a stillness and quiet in the waiting. We reflect: looking back on the birth of the Christ child at the same time looking ahead to Christ’s second coming. Glorious Day! With focus, we journey through Advent on to Christmas as we head to Epiphany. May our time of reflection bring us epiphanies to God’s will for our lives and for His Church. 

In Bob Goff’s devotional book, “Live in Grace, Walk in Love,” he shares, “God gave the Wise Men a direction, not a bunch of instructions.” How is God guiding us and how can we align with His will to follow Him? That is something worth taking time to be still and reflect upon often. God is at work and continues to pour out His blessings upon us. Bring on 2021! 

Allison Lindsey is the director of Connectional Ministries. She has a passion for the local church and its people. Contact her at allison@sgaumc.com.

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