Just like a good story, your life has a beginning, and an ending with the middle chapters lived out in different seasons in settings. Each of these life chapters has a unique little storyline that shapes your character and destiny. In the previous post Closing Chapters – Wrapping Up 2020 I said that, especially after a rough season
one needs to conclude a life chapter, to pin it down so that the new chapter begins with a clean slate, not being held back by unresolved issues.
(I have spoken the need for Closing Chapters at Shofar Durbanville’s morning service on 29 November 2020. A recording can be found below; message starts at 44 minutes)
We close a life chapter effectively by making memories and finding meaning in these memories. We begin our review of the year by looking at those events or trends that had a memorable impact on my life, shaping my identity, relationships or purpose. As we begin our review, we take not of each event’s effects on our emotions or relational dynamics, , self-view or confidence.
Review the 2020 (the highlights and lowlights)
To review of a longer season such as a year or few years at a particular company season may be difficult to initiate. Where does one begin? I find it helpful to plot a simple histogram with three or four layers to get my thoughts started.
An example histogram to get your reflection for 2020 started might look like this: three lines showing the highs and lows of your relational life, work life and spiritual life over the 12 months of the year.
- Line 1: As you reflect over the year’s events, indicate your general sense relational health (you might want to draw lines for each significant relationship).
- Line 2: Do the same for your work life.
- Line 3: Do the same for your spiritual life.
- You may want to consider lines to indicate your confidence or anxiety levels, your finances, studies, sports or church life – whatever touched you deeply in the year.
- Now mark a few key events in your life, trigger events or turning points, on this graph.
Some people find these graphs less helpful for reflection. Therefore I share three other ways in which I do reflection on a season, to get to those events and trends that will add to my life story going forward.
- For each of the key relationships in your life, recall the highlights and lowlights in the year. Which of these events had a lasting impact on me/us, and how?
- List the big external events (such as the pandemic, drought and civil unrest) or personal crisis (sickness, accident, burglary or separation) and recall how it impacted me. What do I carry with me since then?
- Compare every aspect of my life how I entered the year, and how I exit the year. Eg, I entered 2020 with R150’000 of debt and exit with R75’000 debt. At the beginning of 2020 we were a family of 3 but at the end of 2020 we are a family of 4. Consider making these comparisons on your personal life, work life, social life, spiritual life, finances etc. How did these changes occur, and how do these impact me?
From these reflections, reduce your Highs and Lows to those you deem most influential on your life in this past year. These are the memories that you will reflect on to find meaning in the year, affirming your identity and refining the purpose that sets your course in the years to come.
Recognize the good (preservation and growth)
Memories by themselves are good, but apart from our life in God, these events do not give meaning to our lives. Next we ground our memories of 2020 in the providence and presence of God.
In reviewing the good things that happened to me in 2020, it is helpful to start with the question: “What bad things did NOT happen to me this year?” In a year filled with devastation and disappointments, it is necessary to recognize and rejoice in God’s protection and preservation. Record these in jour journal with a heading similar to Psalm 124: “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side…”
Then look at your life, comparing your situation at the beginning and the ending of your year. Ask yourself (and those close to you): “What good things did happen to me?” Don’t rush this section. Think of the growth in your life in all its totality: physically, materially (possessions), emotionally, relationally, spiritually. Think of your work and influence. I used two headings for my reflection, borrowing from 1 Samuel 7:12 “Thus far the Lord has helped us…” and from Psalm 103 “Bless the Lord oh my soul, and forget not all his benefits…” listing according to those aspects form David’s praise.
Especially in a trying year such as this, it is crucial to see and celebrate God’s faithfulness and generous grace, displaying his devotion towards us. These contemplations ground us in the reality of his abiding presence and steadfast love – the sure footing for our next chapter.
Take these highlights into your prayer time and give thanks to the Lord for his generosity and faithfulness. Indeed, your life is grounded in the presence and providence of God – a sure footing for 2021.
In my next post we will deal with the lowlights, the disappointments and pains of 2020, to live free from regrets and vengeance in the years to come.