As the new year approaches, and even a new decade, this is the time we start longing for a fresh start.
To put the failures and disappointments of one season behind us and move on to a new one.
To see what new opportunities are opened by our successes and victories.
When working with my coaching clients, I often say we need to “close the door” on a decision. That means we stand in the doorway and say, “This is the best decision I can make right now and unless God clearly turns me around and re-opens the door, I’m going to fix my eyes on what is in front of me.”
I think we also need to close the door on the year. But if you’ve ever tried to put a child to bed, you know it’s hard to close the door on something that is still calling out to you. They’ll keep calling your name until you come back, tuck them in with a sweet kiss, say a prayer over them and gently pull the door to with an emphatic click.
Closing the door on a year can be much the same. Without that emphatic click, the events of the prior year will keep calling to you, dragging you back into places you may not need to or want to go. So before you cozy up in front of the fireplace with your clean new planner and start mapping out the next year, spend time reviewing where you’ve been over the last 365 days.
Look Back at Last Year
Take a deep breath, put your emotions aside and take an honest look at what happened last year.
What successes and victories did you have that you can build on in the new year?
What barriers held you back that you need to learn from?
But don’t look only at those extremes. What about the little things in between?
What small daily habits did you make that helped you make progress?
What bad habits are creating struggles and missed opportunities?
What was left undone this year and how did that affect you?
Look not only at the events themselves, but how they impacted you, your family, ministry or business. Dive in that deeper layer to uncover the truths that can transform the next year.
Tuck In What Gets Left Behind
Now that we’ve identified what we can learn from the past year, it’s time to tuck in the parts we need to leave behind and give them a sweet goodnight kiss.
We all carry a certain amount of baggage with us from each difficult season of our lives. And if your past year did not include a difficult season, then count yourself very blessed.
We need to separate the valuable lessons from the broken places and leave what what’s broken behind.
Leave behind the guilt over mistakes made.
Leave behind the shame of a goal not met.
Leave behind the anger of a failed idea.
Leave behind the hurt from a relationship you’ve desperately tried to mend.
Leave behind the fear of stepping into the calling that no one else thinks you can do.
Leave behind whatever lies and labels have attached themselves to you and replace them with the truth of how God sees you.
If you struggle with knowing how God sees you, check out the book “More Than A Name: Discover Who You Are By Studying Who Jesus Is” by Liz Giertz.
Praying Over The Past
Leaving behind that baggage is much easier said than done. In fact, even for the most disciplined among us, we can’t do it based solely on the strength of our own willpower. Only with God’s help can we truly walk away from those things don’t line up with His best plans for us.
Use this prayer as an outline to create your own prayer of leaving behind:
Father, thank you for all that this past year was. The good things and the bad things. The lessons learned, the relationships built and even the hard things endured.
I want to take from this year the truths that will impact me and all that I put my hand to in the next year. And leave behind the things that no longer belong in my life.
Forgive me where I have not lived up to your standards and strengthen me where my weaknesses create barriers.
Lord, give me strength to leave behind bad habits and behaviors. Give me courage to leave behind the broken pieces that may never fit together again. And give me faith to leave behind the lies and labels that keep me from believing what you say is true.
And as I close this door, help me keep my eyes fixed on what you have in front of me.
Closing the Door
Before we head out the door, we have one more task. We’ve focused a lot on letting go of the hard things, but let’s not forget there was an awful lot of good along the way. Gather those things up and hold them tight.
Victories and accomplishments that show you are on the right track.
New skills and habits that caused you to stretch.
Blessings and miracles, large and small, that only God could do.
Connections made and relationships built that remind you this journey was made for community.
Transformation and growth in the people you serve in ministry, work and at home.
Hold these things close to your heart, as they will give you confidence when you face bumpy times ahead.
Now, turn with excitement and anticipation towards the new year, take those first faith-filled steps and pull the door closed behind you. And keep walking.
Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV)
What part of reviewing the past year is most helpful to you? I’d love to hear your tips for taking stock and moving on.