The last week of the year is awkward. It’s hard to plan anything since so many people are still traveling. For working folks, it’s often a “wish-I-was-anywhere-else” week since little can be accomplished due to the absence of so many others. Should be a great week for thinking back on a good year, right? Maybe.
For someone who claims to love to reflect, I risk conveying a sense of contradiction or else the after-Christmas blues with the picture I’ve painted of this week. Perhaps it seems awkward precisely because it is only one week. With all the focus on Christmas festivities through December 25th, we really only leave ourselves that one week-between-the-big-holidays to think about the year – and surely we need more time than that to process where we have been over the past 365 days and where we would like to go from here.
Perhaps it isn’t the week itself that is awkward, but is instead the things we Americans tend to hold in focus. Inevitably, the media will spend the week rehashing the best songs, the best movies, top videos, and best gadgets of 2011. We will also assuredly be reminded of those beloved stars and otherwise-famous people who died this past year. I suppose all of those things are suitable ways to reflect on a passing year. I, however, (predictably) would prefer to focus on other things in assessing the year.
The first obstacle in any act of remembering for me is the most obvious: my memory. I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast this morning, so how could I possibly remember the year without some reliable support? Perhaps the new Facebook Timeline could serve as a way to track the year. Of course, I would have to read between the lines and somehow remember the things that were not published – you know, the things that were not happy enough, witty enough, or interesting enough to use as status updates. Helpful, but not entirely sufficient.
There are a few reliable gauges in determining how well I have spent the past year, which is how I prefer to spend this week. In using the metaphor of time being “spent”, I suppose I would first want to look closely at my bank statements and checking account register. Those lines will tell a tale in great detail (been reading a lot of Dr. Seuss lately) of where my particular treasures lie. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” [Luke 12:34]
The next gauge would probably be one of quality time spent with family and friends. How many memories (hopefully documented in pictures or other keepsakes) were made this year? More than ever, I am beginning to value pictures that capture special days or moments. While it is not possible to document every special moment with digital photography, every special time deserves some sort of keepsake or marker. To add interest to your measuring efforts, try asking your family and friends what they remember the most. You may discover that what they remember and value the most is not what you remember or value!
The next thing that I would want to consider is how well I spent my creative energy. Have I made steps toward God’s calling in my life? Have I produced anything to benefit others beyond my self or my immediate family? Have I even worked at all toward some specific mission or goal that is Kingdom-focused and altogether bigger than me?
Of course, it couldn’t hurt to consider these things more often than once each year – particularly the goals/creative energy aspect. We would do well to keep that one on a daily prayer cycle and quarterly assessment! Can you imagine how effective we could be with that kind of focus?!?
With this process in mind, I challenge you to create your own “best of” lists for 2011 and make a supporting list of goals for 2012. Let’s all set aside extra time to pray and write down what we hear God saying about this new year, then turn those leading words into our personal gameplan for 2012!
This could be the most important week of 2011.