Looking Back, Looking Ahead

A New Year is a ripe occasion for spiritual practice, a chance to look back at what the past year has offered, and a chance to dream and to hope about what could be in the year ahead.

The look backward is sometimes called the Examen, a prayer practice that asks these questions: “where is the last year did I experience the most freedom?” and “where in the last year was I most constricted?”  Those focused lenses help me name, and then savor the way I am experiencing the Holy working in my life. My calendars for the last year help me…”oh really, that is what happened, I have already forgotten!” My journals remind me and reflect where I was this time last year in looking back. They are never written to be preserved for history, as if someone would like to publish them some day, but are current markers of what the day and moment has evoked, and where I am seeing or not seeing the Presence in them. In retrospect I can take great joy and offer up bushels of thanksgiving for the times and places where I recognize that God has been faithful, that I have moved beyond a stuck place, where the Spirit has made a way when there was no way. I am also confronted with the ways in which there remain  recurring themes that require work and attention, things done and undone for which I need forgiveness and resolve to keep participating in my own healing.

This year I have had some profound experiences of healing from past wounds, of  God’s providence in putting me the right place at the right time, of the creative breezes of the Spirit sparking my imagination. For these I am profoundly grateful! When I stop to count up the gifts of the year, the list overflows onto many pages. The losses and griefs are many, too. Maybe that is part of the fabric of life with the process of passing years. Even though I don’t have many skills as a prophet, I do notice with deep affect the changes in the world as I came to know it when growing up. The Church is changing, and I wonder if there are places in it for people of my age and stage. The neighborhood is changing; small business owners whom we have frequented since moving here have had to close up shop in these days of economic doldrums. The level of civility and of assumptions of respect have vanished with the speed of the old, now obsolete, Etch-a-Sketch. The presence of the needs of the world are inescapable, and I wonder from whence the wisdom and discernment to act as a person of Spirit will come.

So I turn my face to the year ahead. Since my absence of prophetic gifts has already been duly noted, I am thrown back on lifting up what it is I can count on, on what is unshakable, concrete reality for me:

  • The unfailing Love of God never ceases.
  • God is faithful, does not abandon us.
  • Love is the greatest expression of life with the Holy.
  • It is never too late to learn to Love; there is no one from whom I am excused in loving, although I may be called to take care to love the Self that God made in me while loving another
  • God loves the whole created world…humanity and its beauty and flaws, nature and its rhythms and flow
  • As a human being, made in God’s image, I am God’s work of art, created for good works, no matter how old, how inept, how distant, how sad I might feel on a particular day.

So I am launched into this year with no clear roadmap, no bucket list, no Top Ten goals, no resolutions, only a place of Loving and being Beloved at the Center, which equips me with principles for discerning the road and what to do when I get to the destinations that will be come clear to me when I reach them. I am happy to live with that!

Happy New Year!


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