Should we just shut the door and leave 2020 completely behind? That’s what I kind of wanted to do on December 31st.
But every year, I usually take a few hours to reflect back on the previous year. I really didn’t feel like doing that this time, because I knew exactly what had happened. My year wasn’t good, and it wasn’t hard to remember why. I also didn’t want to become the next person moaning about the woes of 2020 because, frankly, I’m sick of hearing that, too. But a new year is a good reason to draw a line and reflect on what God has done in your life. So, for that reason, I went ahead with it. It’s not too late for you to do it, too. You have everything you need right on your phone and the five steps below.
What I’m doing when I reflect upon a year is going in search of wisdom. Proverbs 4:5-7 hammers home the idea that we are to GO GET IT—to pursue obtaining wisdom actively.
Get wisdom, get understanding;
do not forget my words or turn away from them.
Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you;
love her, and she will watch over you.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.
That last line cracks me up. Want to be wise? Go get wisdom. Maaaaaybe not as helpful as it could be, no?! Most of us would say, “OK, but how?!”
This is how: Go in search of the trends and patterns of your previous year.
If we can learn to see through our day-to-day tasks and reality with the eyes of God, then we can start to see what He’s doing and how to live better by getting on-board with His work in our lives. Like it or not, God often moves slowly over time, so we have to step back and assess the long, slow emerging patterns we see.
For instance, one pattern I saw in my 2019 reflection was that the four times we hosted people in our home were all on my list of “highs” for the year—a pattern! God had blessed our family when we were hospitable with our home. I needed to see this in black-and-white because, honestly, that’s a stretch for me. Hosting is not always my favorite thing.
So this year, in 2020, when a young woman needed a place to live for a month, it was an easy yes. We’d already seen the pattern that God tended to bring unexpected blessing when we offered hospitality to others.
This year, the reason I dragged my feet doing my reflections was mostly that I typically make two columns: lows (“bad”) and the highs (“good”) and see what pops out. I knew 2020 left me a long list of “bad” and not nearly as much “good.” I really didn’t want to take the time to make a big list of all the crap of 2020 and then struggle to come up with some half-baked good stuff for the other column.
In my hesitation, a better question came to me. And it made all the difference! I’ll use it from now on. Instead of asking, “What was GOOD?” I asked, “Where was GOD?”
I had a mini-epiphany that I was inadvertently defining “good” by some sort of worldly standard. The knee-jerk definition we all use to define “good” is stuff like, am I happy? Pleased? Did I get what I want? Was it my favorite-something-or-other? Goodness is easy to see when it comes wrapped in our favorite activity, food, friend, or fun.
But what if goodness isn’t JUST those things? Goodness is actually wherever GOD is. Anything He is doing in our life is ultimately for our good, even when it comes packaged as struggles, restrictions, or pain.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:29
So this little shift in mindset helped motivate me to keep reflecting and seeking wisdom through a bad year. So I changed my process a little. Feel free to use what I did.
5 simple steps to 2020 reflection:
- CHART: Make this chart.
CALENDAR: Go month-by-month through your phone calendar and pictures. Jot down whatever events/days/person stick out to you (“School went virtual” or “Great hike at the Gorge” or “Got the new puppy” —whatever!)
ASSESS: Categorize your bullet points. Make an “x” for high or low. Jot a note about why. Add any other relevant categories of your own. This year I added “Delight” because I knew it was a bad year, so I was in search of encouragement. This category ended up being one of my favorite insights: every “x” in my “delight” column was something I did with a friend! So important for me to see: I don’t always make enough time for friends. I committed to saying more yes’s to friends in 2021.
PRAY: Ask God to show you the patterns in your life this year.
ANSWER: “WHERE WAS GOD?” If you assume God is working for your good behind the dynamics and patterns of your year, then take your best guess about what He is up to. Go back to him in prayer and ask if it’s right. Also, take it to a good friend and see if it fits what they see happening for you.
One month mine was: “Because I wasn’t at work, God allowed me to see some buried dynamics on my work team that needed to be fixed.” This was part of a pattern through my year of some professional clarifications God made in other months. I might have missed the broad movement if I didn’t assess all 12 months together.
Reflect any way you choose, but don’t leave wisdom on the table!
Search for it confidently, knowing that God is at work in your life and wants to show you things to lead you into 2021. The best reflection is the one you’re doing! God wants more for you, and he’ll work through any process to give you the wisdom you need.
Remember - The beginning of wisdom is this: Go. Get. Wisdom.