By Don Gentry
I love this time of year for so many reasons! One of the reasons is that it offers us a time of reflection, and a time to evaluate how our year has gone. I know many people don’t particularly like or take the time to reflect, but it has proven to be an incredible blessing and discipline in my life. Stick with me and see if you may want to practice a little year-end reflection.
When I was a child my dad started a tradition with our family on New Year’s Day that we would all sit down and celebrate what God had done during the year, and we would share our goals for the New Year. Stacy and I have chosen to continue to carry on this tradition with our family.
The scriptures say, 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)
Over the years we have had some pretty difficult moments to be thankful for. But because we put this teaching into practice on a regular basis, our girls have learned to see the value and the truth come alive in the act of giving thanks. Our girls are now 17, 16, and 15 and it is an incredible joy to see them desire to get up on New Year’s Day to celebrate our family tradition of reflecting upon our year, evaluating/scoring our goals, thanking God for all He has done and all that He has allowed us to experience, and planning for the next year.
We talk about the ups and downs of the year, the things we have learned and experienced, how we have seen God work in our lives, and genuinely create an attitude of gratefulness. Many people think I am weird when I talk about this, and I get a lot of eye rolling, but we love this time together.
Maybe you noticed I said we scored our goals. Many people think resolutions are a waste of time and energy. That is only true if you set or use goals incorrectly. I have intentionally attempted to help our girls learn how to set and achieve goals for the last 17 years. Every year they get better at writing them and achieving them. Every year on New Year’s we write down our goals in such a way as to be able to measure them, remember them, and track them. We measure them in %. The goal is to get a 75% or better. If you write a poorly written goal you cannot do this. As a family, we are now to the point where we can measure our girl’s goals. This has not happened over night. It has been a 17 year journey every New Year’s Day!
One thing that I always add to our goal day is our last verse. Before we pray together as a family and submit our year to God we read this passage. 13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15 (NIV)
Our will and our desires are never first. We have tried to teach our girls that the scriptures don’t teach us not to plan, they teach us to be sure that God’s plan comes first. You will hear our family use the phrase Lord Willing, and this is the reason.
Here is the reality, you must find what works for you and your family. Not everyone likes to set goals or even sees the value. I encourage you to simply find the joy in reflecting upon your year. It can serve you well if you give it a chance. Who knows, you may even start a family tradition!