Taking Time to Reflect

Now reflection is a very different function from thinking. Thinking is an activity of the mind; reflection is its passivity. Modern man is inclined to regard this as a waste of time, and so he carries his everlasting hustle and business into his interior life until there is such a conflict there that he cannot — and sometimes complains because he cannot — call his soul his own. The Book of Uncommon Prayer by Frank W. Moyle

Haunting words for me. Like most of us, I guess, I tend to begin the new year thinking about all the things I want to accomplish or do different. I do that even if I don’t make resolutions, which I usually don’t, or don’t set goals, which I nearly always do.

Do we move on from the previous year too soon? How well do we take time to reflect? Is there any profit from looking at the accomplishments and failures of the past year?

Frank Moyle suggests that when we don’t take time to reflect we tend to lose our soul. I don’t think he means “lose our soul” in the spiritual sense. I think he meant that we lose our ability to know who we are and where we are going.

Some people groups, like the Jewish culture, practice looking back so they know how to move forward. I heard it said once that it’s like they have a gigantic rear view mirror. Reflecting, remembering, even celebrating events of the past helps shape and direct their future.

I am far from being very good at this. I am quite terrible really, but the last few years around this time I have spent a day or two reflecting back on the previous year. Highlights. Low times. Accomplishments. And failures.

One way I do that is reading back through my journal. Yes, I journal. Not every single day, but several times a month.

Here are … things that jumped out at me as I looked back at 2014:

  • 500 Word Challenge—One of the best things I did this time last year was to join in a challenge presented by Jeff Goins to write 500 words a day. It began as a challenge for the month of January, but many extended it throughout the year. I ended up writing 106,896 words in 2014 (I didn’t write on weekends or most holidays).

These words were in blogs—most on my site, but a few guest blogs along with content on a non-profit site that I write for—more were written on my new book—Toxic Shame, and a few more were written as devotionals.

  • Ever Changing Family Dynamics—2014 was the second full year of us being parents. Our son turned four in October. Along with that came potty training, sleepless nights, and temper tantrums. And on top of that, Danielle found out that she has some gluten allergies which has completely changed her diet (and effects mine too!).

Bring on the counseling! Seriously, we did seek outside help of all sorts. After 20 plus years of just the two of us, the past three years or so have stretched us beyond belief. But we ended the year well. Thank God.

  • Sacred Space—The ever-changing family dynamics in 2014 fed an already existing hunger on our part to find time to create sacred space. The kind that Moyle refers to in the quote above. We began to feel that life with a three now four-year-old was being dictated to us instead of the other way around. What was missing was this thing called sacred space.

Danielle , and a few of her friends, read Jen Hatmakers book, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. In the book, Jen references a practice called Seven Sacred Pauses. It suggests pausing seven times throughout the day to connect wth God.

Then, as God does, my friend, John Duncan, gave me a copy of his new book, Sacred Space: The Art of Sacred Silence, Sacred Speech, and The Sacred Ear in the Echo of the Still Small Voice of God. Perfect timing for us as we long for this in our lives and family. In fact, I read the quote from Moyle in John’s book. (I will either write a review or even better do an interview with John soon!)

What do I gain from taking time to reflect?

  • Push the reset button. As I read through my journal, some of it made me sad. I recorded many of my shortcomings and failures in 2014, mainly as prayers for His intervention. But none of them are fatal, so I don’t need to drag them into the new year that’s for sure. Reflecting allows me to take hold of them and put them aside.
  • Recognize accomplishments. Celebrate. Pat on the back. Build on the successes.
  • Remember that change won’t kill me. Even though the change in our family dynamics were challenging, we survived!

How Have You Reflected on 2014?

I am a longtime Austinite. Married my beautiful wife over 25 years ago. Adopted our son September 2012. Currently a writer and loving it. Previous jobs and careers include project management, missionary, and pastor. I enjoy sports (both watching and playing), traveling, reading, digging in dirt and hanging with my friends and family.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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