I have been developing the habit/discipline of doing a daily examen following a somewhat Ignatian model. What that means is I spend some time at the end of each day reflecting on where Jesus was throughout the day with me — where did I see and experience him, where did I miss him, etc. I also then start each day with a prayer of surrender and commitment. It has been a really good exercise for me.
Michael Hyatt, on his blog, lays out 7 questions worth asking about your previous year. You can read his post here. It is kind of an “annual examen” process. I think it is worth working through. It took me about 90 minutes. You can see my thoughts below. Just a quick warning… this comes right out of my journal so it is quite personal, sometimes written in short-hand, etc. If this bothers you, skip the rest of this post.
If you go through the process and are willing to share, feel free to post in the comments here. Or leave a link to your blog… would love to hear about your year too!
(1) If the last year were a movie of your life, what would the genre be?
Tragedy/Coming of Age.
The technical difference between tragedy and comedy is that comedy ends well. Right now, there is no happy ending… it is tragedy… but maybe the sequel will be a comedy. That is up to God.
I know I am a bit old for a “coming of age” story, but that is also what this year has been. Hiding and repressing a huge part of oneself for 17+ years can have the effect of stunting one’s emotional growth. I know it did for me. So I am “coming of age” in terms of accepting who I am, learning to feel again, learning to understand and embrace my emotional self, etc.
(2) What were the two or three major themes that kept recurring?
– The need for authenticity and transparency
– fear/faith tension
(3) What did you accomplish this past year that you are the most proud of?
This is a hard one to answer… surviving might be the answer. Not throwing in the towel entirely might be too.
I also think that how I have handled the situation for the past 6 months is something that I am proud of. I don’t think I handled it well for the first month — spent most of it crying on the couch and pretty incapacitated by fear — but after that I have strived to handle it with integrity. As much as I can I have tried to own my sin and its consequences (both publicly and with God), live with transparency, seek reconciliation, serve where I can, etc. Hard to feel too good about it since the whole mess was of my making, but…
(4) What do you feel you should have been acknowledged for but weren’t?
Another hard one to answer…
I guess three things if I am honest… (1) what I said above in #3. All things considered I feel like I have handled things well for the past 6 months. I have surrounded myself with support and accountability, been transparent and vulnerable, whenever asked I have helped with the church transition, I have been seeking Biblical reconciliation, praying daily for those I have hurt, etc. Again, hard to take too much credit… kind of like the arsonist firefighter putting out the fire… but still…
And (2) ironically, I think I did some of my best preaching and pastoral counseling in the first 6 months of 2009. I personally think that the WIKI series I preached last year was one of the best I have done. I also think that in the midst of the busyness of buildings, growth, campuses, etc, I was getting better and better at pastoral care/counseling and spiritual direction.
And (3) pulling myself together and putting a plan in place to move forward… new apartment, going to culinary school, getting jobs, etc. It would have been easier to just fall into a deep depression and not do those things…
(5) What disappointments or regrets did you experience this past year?
Ouch! Where does one begin with this one?
This is an endless list…
Allowing my sin and brokenness to destroy my life… that is a starter (and not an overstatement).
The friends I hurt and the friendships I lost…
The damage done to the community/church I love…
Disappointment in how everything was handled…
The lost ministry opportunities…
This list goes on and on… and is too painful to write down… so I am going to just leave it at that.
(6) What was missing from last year as you look back?
– For the first 6 months, transparency/authenticity
(7) What were the major life-lessons you learned this past year?
These are hard questions…
– My total reliance on God
– My need for community
– The importance of family in my life… something I can forget too easily.
– The truth of Proverbs 17:17
– The seriousness and damage of my sin on others.
– The truth that God loves me as I am, where I am, right now.
– The power of the cross and grace!
– The importance of being known… of not hiding or pretending.
– The faithfulness of God in the midst of my faithlessness.
– That it is OK to be a gay follower of Jesus Christ.
Hyatt writes at the end of his post:
Now that you have your list, it is time to acknowledge the past and complete it. It’s over. There’s nothing you can do to change it. This is hugely important. What was done was done. It’s time to close that chapter and turn to the next one.
I suggest you write at the bottom of your list, “This year is over. I declare it complete!” Now double-underline it for emphasis. Tomorrow, I plan to write about looking toward next year.
So I end this reflection this way:
2009 is over. I declare it complete!
Question: What were your major life lessons from this past year?