Why Reflecting On The Past Is So Important For Your Future
Does anyone else feel a little down this time of year? The holiday season is over, the Christmas trees come down, and slowly life returns back to normal. However, these slow days sandwiched between Christmas and New Years finally give me the time to settle in and think about the upcoming year.
I tend to be a forward thinker. I love to plan. I enjoy scheduling things to look forward to (especially in January, February, and March because, let's be honest, these are the months where every Midwesterner questions why they live here).
However, in all the looking ahead to the future, I often forget to reflect on the past. Reflection is an incredibly important discipline. It is so important that I dedicate two weeks to it in Habits of the Heart. In a world that pressures you to keep moving, reflection helps you pause and remember how God has worked in and around you. And isn’t the end of the year the perfect time to reflect with the Lord?
The discipline of Remembrance isn’t something I just made up. It is all over Scripture. Take a look…
"I remember the days of old. I ponder all your great works and think about what you have done."
"My child, never forget the things I have taught you. Store my commands in your heart."
"Remember the things I have done in the past."
"Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me – everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you."
Maybe God knew our human hearts were prone to forget. We easily forget the unexpected blessings, the valuable lessons learned from hard times, or special moments where we experienced God’s unique love for us.
Perhaps there are some of us want to forget this past year. Maybe this was a really difficult year for you, full of painful memories that you wish would disappear. Or maybe you are ending the year feeling disappointed about how little was accomplished. Or disappointed with feeling like you took a step back. The year began with great aspirations but ended with feelings of overwhelming exhaustion and lack of fulfillment. The negative always seems to be easier to focus on.
No matter what the last 365 days had in store for you, I bet there were also a few victories, some unexpected gifts, and a handful of really important lessons you learned.
What do you want to make sure you don't forget from 2017?
This past year, God gave me a wonderful gift that I want to remember. About this time a year ago, I felt like I needed more support as a mother. I had several wonderful pockets of friends but still felt a deep desire to belong somewhere. I remember praying and praying that God would bring more support into my life but didn’t exactly know what that might look like. Last December, I was invited to join my friend's table at an event called “Mom’s Together,” which is basically a once-a-month event where you sit at a table with other moms, listen to a speaker, and eat some breakfast...oh yeah, and there is childcare. If you can wrangle your kids out the door, it feels like such a treat. Anyway, I went to this breakfast on a cold December morning, not knowing that God had something special in store for me. But that day, I connected with the mamas at my table who, over the last year, have become such a big part of my life. We have play dates. We have Mom wine nights. They bring me food when I am sick. They have loved (and even babysat!) my kiddos. We have celebrated each other's accomplishment's and have grieved a few losses together too.
These friends represent so much more to me than support. They remind me that God hears my prayers, cares about the desires of my heart, and is faithful to respond.
I have some big prayers as I head into 2018, but I can pray with hope as I remember what God has done for me in the past.
So now that the parties are over, the presents are unwrapped, and the people are out of your house – grab your cup of coffee, escape into your bedroom, and ask yourself, “What do I want to remember from this past year?”
Here are a few reflection questions to get you started (for those of you who own Habits, these questions will look familiar):
1. What was the happiest moment you shared with the Lord over the past year? What did this teach you about who He is?
2. Where did you grow most in courage this past year? Give yourself a pat on the back for the times when you chose to be brave by stepping out of your comfort zone.
3. Think of a person(s) God brought into your life at just the right time this past year. Thank God for his perfect timing and his generous care for you.
4. What was the best gift God gave you this past year?
When we reflect, we are better able to hold onto what we have learned and where God might be leading us in the future. Begin the year with intentionality and a refreshed vision.
My prayer for you is this: May God bless you as you reflect and remember – the joys, the hardships, the unexpected gifts, blessings, and people. May you carry these in your heart as you enter into the New Year.
Wishing each and every one of you a safe and Happy New Year!