“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
There are many things I carry with me every day from my football playing career. Some are not so glamourous—like surgical scars on both my knees and dealing with more aches and pains than I should at my age. Some I wouldn’t trade for the world—like friendships cultivated with teammates and fond memories of practices, games, and our collective achievements.
But as 2014 comes to a close and 2015 begins anew, I now realize there is a habit I built as an athlete that continues to serve me well year after year:
R & R
No, I’m not talking about New Year’s Day rest and relaxation in front of a television filled with college football bowl mania and a plate filled with tailgate food. (Although I strongly recommend this habit!) I’m talking about a habit that has the ability to serve us well everyday—New Year’s Day and beyond.
R & R – Reflect and respond.
Having played quarterback, I got pretty polished at the healthy habit of R & R. Football is a humbling game. There are many moving parts and pieces every play—and there is always something that can be done better. When you win, you never play as well as you think you did. When you lose, you never play as poorly as you think you did.
After every single game comes in-depth film study. Reflection. What did we do well? What must we improve upon? How did we perform in certain situations? Did we get better on what we chose to focus on this week? Do we need to change our personnel or approach next week?
Then comes the game plan for the next game. Respond. What do we need to focus on to win this week? What does the opponent do well? What do they struggle with? How can we exploit their weaknesses? What adjustments will we make to put us in the best position to succeed?
While the end of each game is a finish line, it’s also a starting line. Each game is a chance for R & R – the chance to reflect on opportunities to get better and then the ability to respond and make good on the desired improvements.
And that’s exactly the opportunity we’re given at the turn of each new year. A new year is a finish line. And a starting line.
As we flip the calendar page from December to January, we would be wise to spend time observing the writer of the Old Testament book of Lamentations live out the habit of R & R. As he ponders the evil, pain, and suffering that Jerusalem has suffered at the hands of Babylon, he also looks ahead, out of destruction, to a brighter day of hope that is rooted in God’s faithfulness.
The author reflects on the difficulty he’s seen in his community and honestly shares his heart. The text says he remembers his “affliction”, “wandering”, “bitterness”, and “gall.” He vulnerably admits his “soul is downcast” and his heart aches for a better future.
But then he crosses the finish line of reflecting on his pain and approaches a new starting line. He chooses to respond in hope—a hope that can only come from our Heavenly Father. His response is filled with praise to God: “…his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
As we enter the new year before us, let’s all follow the example of Lamentations 3 and take some time for a little R & R:
Set aside some time for quiet reflection on the year that’s passed. What were the highlights? What was exciting? What did you accomplish? What did you do to serve others? How did God display his faithfulness in your life? What were the lowlights? What did you struggle with? What was disappointing? Where did you fail? What caused you grief? As you process last year, simply write down three things you desire to change or approve upon in the year ahead. (If you need a kick-start, Dr. Tim Elmore has some great suggestions to help you reflect on last year.)
As you review the three things you desire to change in 2015, spend time seeking God in prayer. How can you better align your life with his character In the year ahead? Review the three changes you just listed and, next to them, list your response to your reflection—the three things you are fully committed to accomplishing in 2015. Place or post your response list somewhere visible—on your mirror, in your wallet, on your desk, in your car—where you’ll see it as a daily reminder of your commitment for the year ahead.
This new year is both a finish line and a starting line. It’s the perfect chance for some R & R—an opportunity to reflect on the year that’s passed and the ability to respond to make the year ahead our best yet! May all we do this year be done in service to God, for the betterment of others!
IT’S YOUR TURN: Add your comments! What have you dedicated yourself to accomplishing in 2015?