How do I go about doing this? George Fox, the founder of the Quaker movement, once wrote an epistle in which he charged his followers to “Let your life preach.” While Fox was addressing the need for our lives to match our beliefs, Parker Palmer, a popular educator wrote a book suggesting that we first need to let our lives speak to us, to tell us what we might need to know about who we are, and what we are called to do in this world. He writes:
Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am. I must listen for the truths and values at the heart of my own identity, not the standards by which I must live—but the standards by which I cannot help but live if I am living my own life.
If you’d like a simple focus for 2017—why not let the life you lived in 2016 speak to you? For the full exercise, click here, but here’s the quick version: First, you look back over the year and jot down things like your most significant experiences, your most painful struggles, any life-changing events etc. Then, as you read the list, you prayerfully consider a couple of questions like: What do you want me to know, Father? Where do you want me to grow? As answers come, journal what you are sensing, and then distill your notes into one word or phrase that might be your focus as you begin the new year.
I was totally surprised by what God led me to for 2017. There were so many big events for me—a book launch, teaching my first seminary classes, Joe’s major accident etc. but the event the Lord kept bringing me back to was our unplanned kitchen remodel. Gently, God called me to relive that experience, reminding me of how I had no control, that the entire thing was a gift I couldn’t manage, and could only wait and be grateful as it unfolded. As I sat with the Spirit in this place, I heard the word abide, and knew that was to be my focus for 2017. I am not sure what this is going to entail, but I will share with you as we go.
Meanwhile, have a blessed New Year, and if you’d like to trade in your resolutions for a spiritual exercise that might just make a real difference, click here.