“It’s not the experience that brings transformation, it’s our reflection upon our experience.” – Jan Johnson
As evening turns into night, I strain my eyes to see the faint outline of buildings, fields, and herds of aimless cattle. Seated on the train and on my way home, I’m reflecting on a long weekend spent in good company. Dark surroundings begin to fade into the background as my mind drifts. I think of the many “trains” I’ve boarded in life, and the ways God has revealed Himself through decisions, people, and places.
A couple of months ago, I went to a ladies Bible study, and one of the leaders pulled out a stack of photographs. She laid them out on the coffee table in the center of our group. She asked us to pick an image that described our relationship with God. Someone chose a donut with pink frosting and sprinkles, symbolizing the goodness and sweetness of Jesus. Another chose a sunrise because she feels closest to God gazing on the beauty of nature. I chose a picture of intersecting highways lit by city traffic because I see God at the crossroads of every coincidence, unexpected opportunity, and unlikely friendship. The more I learn about God, the less I believe any of these moments were by accident or chance. I believe God has always been there, revealing Himself in the remnants of a million moments. The difference is I’m just becoming more aware of it.
I’m looking at this picture in my hand, and I’m disappointed for taking so long to realize it. Because if we are the cars waiting, driving, and hustling through the night traffic, our focus is often tuned into the immediacy of the moment. It can be hard to see how God is at work in these ordinary occurrences. Sometimes it isn’t until a month or even years go by that we are able to scratch the surface of how all these seemingly disconnected pieces tie together to create the narrative that we call our life. When we take a step back, we begin to see the paths that have crossed, the trains we’ve boarded and the highways we’ve traveled that have led us to where we are.
Sometimes we find ourselves at a fork in the road, and we start straining our eyes searching for a clear path. We pray for certainty and clarity and ask for an answer to shake the lingering doubt.
Perhaps more than clarity we’re searching for peace. We’re searching for the assurance that the outcome will turn out to be okay, even if it doesn’t go as we expected. For the spiritual seeker, maybe we just want to know that we’re walking in God’s plan, and He won’t leave us despite our anxious questioning. We want to make the right decision, but that insinuates there is a wrong decision. If you’re feeling stuck, it might be helpful to focus less on the right thing and more on the next thing. Because perhaps what’s more important than the decisions themselves is who we’re becoming in the process.
I’m an avid fan of reflection because it reminds us of where we are and how we got here. Reflection shows us what’s working, what isn’t, and when we need to make a change. It gives us the space to list what is most important in this season and what we need to let go of to pursue them. Reflection makes us more aware and in tune with the daily rhythm of our lives and the lives of those around us. It helps us become more mindful and self-aware, not only when we intentionally pull out a notebook to record a few things we’re learning, but here in the present moment.
I can still feel the turbulence of the train as my drifting mind returns to my surroundings. My stop is coming soon.
As we enter new beginnings, may we take a moment to reflect on what’s ending. May we pack the best pieces of what we’ve learned to carry with us as we go and leave behind the things that weigh us down. May we learn to see God and become more aware of His presence in the mundane moments. May we trust that He is with us when we come to a fork in the road so long as we invite Him on the journey. May we trust ourselves to cowrite the narrative we call our lives through the decisions we make. And may peace steady us, and joy surprise us as we do the hard work of reflection. Amen