It’s been a habit for years now of taking a day in December to reflect back over the past year, and then look forward with expectation for the new year ahead. I like to mix it up every year and create a different way of reflecting. I think I could call it a spiritual discipline now, as it has become such an important tool, to learn lessons from the past and move into the new season with growth goals and direction.
During October, Rite and I had the privilege of walking the last 114km of the Camino de Compostela in the north of Spain. We took our time and thoroughly enjoyed the scenery, the peace, the conversation and having a personal pilgrimage with the Lord. So, with the Camino fresh in our minds, Rite and I are using it as the basis for our yearly debrief. We have used the key symbols of the Camino to form the basis for 7 questions to ask ourselves. It’s simple and yet meaningful and something you could do with the whole family. At the end of the letter there is a design for turning an A4 sheet of paper into an 8-page booklet with front cover and a different question for each of the 7 pages. You can then write answers to the questions below on the appropriate page. Enjoy.
The definition of a pilgrim: “A person who makes a journey, often a long and difficult one, to a special place for religious reasons.”
We are all pilgrims making our way to our heavenly home. Consider the Camino or journey you have been walking over this last year. I am sure you have had many twists and turns in your road and a multitude of experiences along the way. Look back on all those experiences and recognise the Lord was with you in them all – he never leaves us or forsakes us but leads us as a good shepherd.
Question 1: What are you thankful for on this last year’s pilgrimage? Think of the celebrations, the lovely memories, the family gatherings, the relationships enjoyed, the special moments, the experiences with Jesus, the answered prayers, …. There is so much we can be grateful for.
2. Passport stamp:
On the Camino, there are so many stops along the way – shops, café’s, restaurants, churches, and places to stay. Each one offers a stamp for your Camino passport. You need at least two stamps a day to get your certificate at the final destination in Santiago. By the time you reach your destination your passport is full.
Question 2: What have you accomplished in your life, relationships and ministry/work role this year? Jesus said he came to give us life and life to the full – so that means we can expect to complete some tasks, develop deeper relationships, fulfil some goals, experiences fruitfulness in our lives, continue to see personal transformation in character, skills and spiritual connection and see our leadership excel in all our roles. So, what have you accomplished this year? You may be aware of some things that you didn’t manage to accomplish – ask the Lord if these are to be carried over to the new year.
The Camino is well marked out and at every turn in the road there is a yellow arrow to show you which way to go. So, you keep walking straight ahead until you see the yellow arrow. There is no worry of losing your way on this journey.
Question 3: What change of circumstances, roles, locations, directions or transitions have you been through this year? Our journey in life doesn’t often go in a straight line for too long! We face challenges and turns in the road that are unexpected. These are times that we must put our trust in the Lord to guide us through and hopefully we can see the signs that the Holy Spirit gives us on route.
Packing for your journey is very important. We tend to want to take too much and end up carrying extra weight that we don’t need. On the other hand, it’s not until we have been on the road for a few days that we realise there are important things we need that we hadn’t thought about. For instance, you might not need a lot of pairs of socks but only a couple of well-worn ones, but you definitely need Vaseline to anoint your feet every night!
Question 4: What do you want to take out of your life and what do you want to add into it? What items could you have done without and need to let go of and what items would have been good to include for next year? You may think of times of stress that you could do without, especially if there are areas that you have control over and can do something about. What can you add to your life to bring greater fulfilment, enjoyment or deeper relationships? Sometimes just making a small change can bring a big impact.
When you walk more kilometres than normal, your feet can easily develop blisters and the road becomes painful to continue to walk. We saw a number of people hobbling along with all kinds of aches and pains and sores.
Question 5: What has been painful on the journey? What wounds need healing? Our road can be littered with potential disappointments, conflicts, difficulties and hurts of all kinds. In order for healing to even be possible we need to recognise that a problem exists. Take time to reflect on any pains that you have experienced and ask God for help and for guidance in the healing process.
6. Walking sticks:
The Camino takes you on routes through forests, countryside, up hills and through villages. Walking sticks come in useful to create a rhythm in your stride and keep you steady on the more uneven paths.
Question 6: What are the lessons you have learned as you have passed through the ups and downs of mountains, valleys and ordinary roads in your life this last year? There are many growth passages in the bible that require steady focus and development like 2 Peter 1:5-7 “Add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.” How have you grown in wisdom? What have been the growth steps, the insights received and the learning from your experiences?
The shell is seen on every major signpost along the way. Originally the shell was given as a reward for completing the Pilgrimage and an encouragement that you have “finished well” but now it is the general symbol connected with the whole Camino.
Question 7: With the reflection of this past year complete, what goals, practices and new assignments do you want to set in motion for 2020 in order to finish this next year well? What do you want to do differently in this new season, what will be your priorities, and what do you sense God is asking you to put your hand to for the continuance of your journey?
May this debrief and look ahead, prepare you for the journey of 2020.
Merry Christmas and a happy new year