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Reflecting on the Journey

Tired. Weary. Those are words I have often heard. It is also how I have felt. After a year of hard, unexpected, and confusing times, we all feel worn out.

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By Bayta Schwarz

Debrief content developed by Sandy Trzcinski who co-leads Member Care for Agape Europe

Photo by Thom Holmes on Unsplash

Where I live in Germany, Christmas has come in the middle of our second lockdown. Though not the end of the journey by any means, the holidays can be a natural time to stop, reflect and take stock. 2020 has given us more to reflect on than most years. Yet that’s hard to do. It feels easier to escape into Christmas movies, baking, cooking, eating, and other joys of the season, than to sit with all that this past year has brought.

 

Yet, over the years when I have taken the time to reflect on a year (or whatever time period) and had the courage to face the emotions that might emerge in the process, I have often experienced God meeting me in special ways, and His peace replacing confusion, fear and grief.

 

This reflection is often called a debrief and can be used to help people process their experiences. In some contexts, a trained facilitator takes participants through a debrief. While that may not be available, even taking this time by yourself, with your spouse, or a trusted friend is incredibly helpful.

 

Why not take time this Christmas season to “debrief” your experience of 2020? 

Here are some practical pointers:

 

  • Plan specific times. Obviously plans may change but if we decide to do it “at some point over the holidays” it will likely get crowded out. Taking a full day is great but I have also found it very helpful to give 30 minutes or so a day over the course of a week.
  • Tell someone what you’re planning to do and ask them to pray for you during that time.
  • Even better: find someone who will join you (not necessarily in the same space) so you can share what you’re learning and how God is meeting you.
  • Gather your calendar, a journal, some coloured pens or pencils, and perhaps some craft materials.
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Photo by Jeremy Vessey on Unsplash

Here are some pointers for things to think about and reflect on. 

 

It’s usually best to work through these one at a time, rather than try and do them at the same time. That way, each aspect receives the attention it requires.

  1. START BY DOING A TIMELINE OF THE YEAR

    This is where your calendar is helpful to remind you of what happened when. It might also be worth looking back at your Instagram feed or other social media you use. You might think you remember but there could be a few surprises. When I went through a debrief back in May, I was stunned to discover how many major things had happened in just the first 10 days of lockdown that I had forgotten. 

  2. FOR MANY OF US, LIVING WITH PARADOX AND MYSTERY IS UNCOMFORTABLE.

    We like to resolve the tension they carry. In this year, where did you experience mystery or paradox? Mark them on your timeline. For example, I was so disappointed when an event I had been looking forward to was cancelled. At the same time, I was relieved as it meant the decision whether to go or not was not one I had to make. That’s a paradox right there.

  3. WHAT WERE SOME OF THE LOSSES YOU EXPERIENCED THIS YEAR?

    You might want to downplay them because they seem less significant than what other people had to deal with. Yet they’re real, they are significant for you, and it’s important to name them. Perhaps it was not being able to say goodbye properly to someone who left, not seeing family for many months, or that you had to cancel a trip or an event you had been looking forward to. Those are losses and we need to acknowledge and grieve them. Again, mark them on your timeline.

  4. WHAT WERE SOME OF THE GIFTS AND BLESSINGS OF THIS SEASON?

    Surprisingly, these can be equally hard to acknowledge. What good things happened? Where did the Lord meet you, encourage you, strengthen you?

  5. YOU MIGHT WANT TO WRAP UP YOUR TIME BY GIVING SOME SORT OF CREATIVE EXPRESSION TO WHAT YOU DISCOVERED.

    This is not a must, obviously, but I have found it very helpful.

As you have engaged with these different aspects of your journey through 2020, hopefully the Lord will have met you in the painful, the confusing and the wonderful things. My experience has often been that acknowledging it all before the Lord (and myself), means they take an appropriate place rather than continue to consume space in my heart, soul and mind.

 

Would you like to set aside time this holiday season to “debrief” your year with the Lord (using this approach or a different one)?

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