The end of a year can hold a beautiful tension, if we let it. Coming off of Advent and the annual reorienting to and celebration of Jesus’s birth, we enter muddied water. I call it muddied because of the minor clash of calendars: New Year (based on the Gregorian calendar) and Christmas Time (until January 6th and Epiphany based on the liturgical calendar).
Five years ago, I created a year-end reflecting packet for cross-cultural workers. (You can see it here.)
It has become a holy exercise for me (and others, but I am speaking for myself). I wish I had started doing it years ago because of the depth and space it creates in my soul. It turns out this annual practice mirrors that tension that we see reflected in the Bible: reflecting and preparing.
How often is the phrase “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” used? Or the call to remember? It’s as if God knows that left on our own, many of us would never look back. Likewise, how often does God reference the future generations, pointing to what’s coming next? God models how we can lean into the tension that reflecting and preparing offers us.
Though we live in this tension of the past and the future all the time, this is the time of year we are acutely aware of it. This holy invitation of reflecting has given me three gifts:
1. The ability to see themes and patterns in a year. Often in a day, week, or month, I might miss the bigger story. But when I step back, I can see things I forgot or hadn’t put together. Often, I realize that a little course correction in my thinking needs to occur. Perhaps the year wasn’t as bad, boring, or hard as I’d been thinking.. I notice God’s hand in meaningful ways.
2. The relationship between naming and honoring. Making a list or answering a few questions doesn’t seem that it would do that much. But for me, as I reflect on the year and answer questions about it, I picture myself like Adam and God in naming the animals. God and I name the good, bad, and ugly of the year. When someone says, “Hey, you” versus “Hey, Amy,” and smiles, it’s a small thing, that conveys honor. By naming my year, I’m honoring what happened (or didn’t happen) and the way God has used it to form me.
3. Processing, annoyingly, is important. I’m the kind of person that would rather not process because I don’t like to be slowed down from my doing. I love doing 😊. But here’s the paradox, processing is like preparing a field. If I just run around tossing seeds, the chances of a crop coming to life is slim. However, if I take time to pull out the dead plants, till up the earth a bit, and plant the seeds, guess what? More are likely to grow. So, for those of you who find reflecting and processing “not your thing” – tie them to what is your thing. Since I love doing, processing helps me actually do more of what’s important to me.
Herb Lamp said, “Without reflection, we lose the ability to see God at work in our lives. Without reflection, we lose perspective in regard to our lives and ministries. Without reflection, we lose the awareness that God is with us and not against us. Without reflection, we lose the sense of joyful delight that each day should bring.”(Journey with Me: Spiritual Formation for Global Workers, 57)
I titled this Behold the Beautiful Tension at the End of a Year because whether the Liturgical or Gregorian calendar, the beautiful tension is an invitation to reflect and prepare. If you’re interested in the Global Trellis packet, you can find it here. You don’t have to use year end packet prepared by Global Trellis, but I do hope you have a way to reflect this time of year.