Last weekend I led a group of small group leaders through a time of reflecting on 2014 and looking ahead to 2015. I’m posting it here as a resource for you as you begin this new year. The exercise takes about an hour and a half. You will need a journal, a separate piece of paper, pens, colored pencils/crayons, and some stickers or highlighters.
The Bible is rich with stories of journeys, however, one of the most significant ones can be found in Exodus, as God leads his people out of Egypt and into the wilderness for 40 years. The image of a journey is a helpful way to consider our own walks with God. More often than not, our lives are not straight paths, but are full of unexpected twists and turns. Yet, God holds our paths and is our guide.
Today, you will be considering the journey you have been on this past year and then begin to look ahead to the path God has for you in 2015. As you enter into this time remember that God is not surprised by your journey, nor with your responses to the various curves along your path. He welcomes you with open arms as you reflect on 2014 and look forward to this new year.
Identifying Your Path (20 minutes)
Reflect on your life throughout 2014. Beginning with January 2014 and moving forward, remember your experience of this past year. As you remember, begin to write down any significant moments for you. Use your journal to write down these moments and for any reflections.
Now, with your mind full of all these memories, take your piece of paper and begin to draw a road or a path to represent this year. Leave about an inch at the top of your page. Is your path very straight or is it very curvy? Is it wide or narrow? Is it dusty or paved? As you draw your path, take your significant moments and mark those on your path with either a symbol or a word or two.
Look back through this map and identify the moments you were aware of God being at work in your life. Designate these moments with a sticker.
As you look at your path, what name or title sums up your experience of 2014? Write that at the top of your map.
Go For a Walk (25 Minutes)
Take your map of 2014 and find an open space. Begin to walk your path literally. Pay attention to what you are feeling and thinking in the midst of this exercise. What do you notice about your path as you walk it? Use your journal for any reflections.
As you finish walking your path, pause for a moment. 2014 has finished. You are in a new year, which means saying goodbye to this current journey. How do you feel about saying goodbye to 2014? Are you reluctant or tentative? Perhaps you feel eager? Or maybe you are still exhausted from the previous year? Share these feelings with God. Remember, he has journeyed with you this past year and knows intimately the twists and turns of your path. Feel free to use your journal for your reflections.
Find a place to sit down for a moment and say goodbye to 2014. Fold your map in half and close it. Then, take your shoes off for a moment. Your feet have taken you many places this past year. Pause and give them a rest as they prepare to step into a new year. Take this moment to thank the Lord for the path he has led you on in 2014. Then, just sit for a few moments in silent gratitude. As you close this section, let Psalm 139:1-6 (ESV) be your prayer:
O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.
Stepping into 2015 (20 minutes)
Now that you have said goodbye to 2014, begin to look ahead to 2015. Put your shoes back on to symbolize stepping into a new year, a new path.
What does your path look like in this moment? Draw a snapshot of the path below your feet right now. Like you did before, pay attention to the width, shape, and texture of your path.
How do you feel about this new path in 2015? Do you feel hopeful about the year to come? Maybe you feel scared or unsure? Can you trust that God holds this path in 2015? Share your honest reflections, hopes, and fears with the Lord, using your journal as needed.
In light of where your path is today, are there any rhythms that might be helpful along the way? Think of it in terms of shoes. If you’re hiking a mountain, you don’t want to be wearing sandals. And yet sandals are great if you’re walking on a beach. What shoes might be helpful for you in this year? Perhaps the Lord is inviting you into a different way of prayer with him? Maybe he is calling you to shift when you spend your quiet time with him? He might even be directing you towards a new spiritual discipline or renewing one you used to practice. Remember, you do not have to pick up a handful of new practices. It might just be one new practice. Use your journal to write out your reflections.
Close your time by reading through Psalm 139:23-24 (ESV). Let this be your prayer of trust to God, who holds you in his hands and guides your path:
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!