When my husband and I started dating I went out and bought a new journal. If I were going to fall in love, I wanted the experience documented in a beautiful journal, worthy of the occasion. Looking back I realize that I often mark new seasons in life with a new journal.
Not everyone gets as excited as I do about a robin’s egg blue journal with whispy birds painted on the cover, I get it. Not everyone is a journaler. However, whether you write down your reflections or not, taking time to contemplate what you are experiencing leads to insight and intentionality.
In the act of reflecting we stop to fold back on what we have experienced. We quiet down to consider what we are going through and realize how God is present with us.
Jesus’ Invitation to Reflection
In Luke 10:17-24 we get a snapshot of Jesus reflecting with his disciples. He had sent them out to proclaim his Kingdom and when they come back together, they reflect on what has happened. The disciples report back with joy that even demons submitted to them and Jesus celebrates with them, giving further meaning to their experience as he explains that, “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” In the process of reflecting on their experiences with Jesus, the disciples gain deeper understanding of who God is, the nature of their relationship with him, and how he is working in the world.
We see this played out over and over in the gospels as Jesus teaches a parable and his disciples pull him aside, reflecting on what they had heard and seeking true meaning.
The act of reflecting gives us time and space to hold up our life situations to the light of the Holy Spirit and scripture. In reflection we sift through experience to see the truth. In reflection we learn to articulate the truths we discover in our experiences. Like the disciples, we can step away from the crowds with Jesus and ask, “what did all that mean?”
So how do we take advantage of this Lenten season to establish a rhythm of reflection?
Here are some suggestions to regularly practice reflection:
Daily- Practice Contemplation. At different seasons I have incorporated different contemplative practices. Generally, daily reflection (anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour) involves quieting my mind to listen to God, reading a short Bible passage and considering it, either in mental reflection or journaling. In the reflection time, the Spirit of God will often incorporate biblical truths into my daily circumstances.
Weekly- Observe the Sabbath. Setting aside time to rest from work (and for me from electronics) opens space for my mind to reflect on what happened in the past week. Gathering with our church and family makes space to reflect with others on the state of our hearts and relationships.
Monthly- Reflect with Others. For the last nine years I have participated in small group spiritual direction. We meet monthly for three hours to reflect on the state of our hearts, minds, and lives. This time has become an oasis in my month. The practice of articulating to others what is in my heart, forces me to look deeply within and not just skim the surface. Most months on the way to the meeting I realize, I don’t really know how I am, thus proving the need for the practice.
Annually- Retreat. Since about 2008 I have been going away for two or three nights to intentionally sit with Jesus and reflect on my life. To get me focused, I take questions from a spiritual director with me. Some times I use them, some times I don’t. I always go somewhere beautiful where I can sit outside. This practice has become essential for my health and calling.
These reflection spaces are not times that come easily. We have to fight for them. I mark out the time in my calendar. I set daily alarms. I pay a spiritual director to meet monthly. I book the retreat months in advance. I fight for time to reflect because I don’t want to just float through life. I want it to mean something. I want to be purposeful for the Kingdom of God and understand my life circumstances in light of His work in the world.
This is the season. Buy a new journal or dictate your reflections to Siri if you’re not the journaling type. Call a friend and make a date to assess together. Choose a day this week to set aside your work. Whatever it is, make space to sit with Jesus this week because one more definition of reflection is to show an exact likeness as a mirror would. May our reflection with Jesus result in us reflecting his image to the world.
Christine Nolf has partnered with her neighbors and local churches to improve their neighborhood over the last 15 years. She writes about those experiences and other thoughts on theology and neighboring on her blog- A View from the Mesa (link- http://www.christinenolf.com). She lives with her husband and infant son in Westside Costa Mesa, CA.