As the calendar flips from 2023 to 2024, we are prone -- as we are each year around this time -- to reflect upon the days that preceded and to dream about the days that are to come. We grieve and praise the past; we devise and craft the hope for our future.
For some of us, we will curate a list of resolutions to follow. For others we will pray for a word to guide us into the unknown of 2024. In both cases, we are casting a vision for our lives and dreaming of ways to enact that vision into the world.
As coaches and educators who follow Jesus, this vision doesn’t have to have a vocational component, but our desire to be renewed, to be transformed by Christ anew this year, will indirectly impact who we are on our respective fields and in our respective classrooms.
So, both of the ways mentioned of attending to a yearly restart are helpful and useful, and if you have used these successfully in the past, I hope you continue to do so! For those who want to try something new, or have struggled to follow your yearly resolutions or guiding words in the past, I want to offer up two time-tested resources to help you reflect on the past year and dream about the year to come.
For generations Christians have been using a daily practice to reflect upon where they experienced God that day, where they failed, and who they hope to be in Christ the next day. It is known as the Daily Examen.
This practice can easily be adapted to help guide us as we look prayerfully back on the year we just left behind. Use the linked resource to guide your Yearly Examen, but here are the basic elements:
Becoming aware of God’s presence
Examination of shortcomings
Looking forward to 2021
Vision for 2024
For hundreds of years, monastic communities have required those who joined them to submit to a “rule.” The purpose of the rule is to order the lives of the men and women to experience the freedom of Christ. They follow the intentional rhythms and disciplines -- the rule -- of the community, and by doing so, are formed more and more in the image of Christ.
A Rule of Life is similar. While you may not be called to live the remainder of your days in a monastery or a convent, we are all called to order our lives in such a way to meet the transforming love of Christ. Therefore, a Rule of Life is a holistic way of intentionally structuring our time to encounter Christ and be transformed by Him. This transformation then empowers us to follow the greatest commandment of them all: to love God and to love others.
Unlike a monastic rule, a Rule of Life is unique to you. My Rule of Life will look different from yours because while we share the same scriptures and the same Holy Spirit, God has imbued different gifts and personalities in each of us. The Lord oftentimes meets and transforms me on top of a mountain or on a soccer pitch while he may meet you in a cup of coffee or a completed curricular project.
You can frame your Rule of Life in a few ways, but we are going to use Mark 12:29-31 as our guide -- verses we have actually already referenced:
29 “The most important [commandment],” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
If the purpose of a Rule of Life is to encounter Christ in order to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love others as ourselves, then our very Rule should reflect this.
Use the linked resource to guide you in developing a Rule of Life, but here are the basic elements.
Relationships with others
So we want to consider: What habits and rhythms can you put in place for God to develop each of these parts in your life? How do you need to order your days, weeks, and months this year so that you love God and others with all of yourself? While spiritual disciplines should be a part of your Rule, you should also think holistically about practices you incorporate at home, in your family, at work, etc. Include anything that brings you into the presence of God, allowing him to form these areas of your self!
Lastly, a Rule is not static. You are meant to reassess it every so often because God may be moving you in a new direction, calling you to himself in new ways, etc.
When you fail, or even when you succeed, your worth in the eyes of God doesn’t change. God was patient with the Israelites; Jesus was patient with his disciples. The same patience borne out of love is extended to us, too.
Our prayer is that as you cast your gaze into the unknown of 2024, your eyes are drawn to the Light that draws you to Himself. As you inch closer and closer to the Light, and as more and more of yourself is bathed in it, we pray you are revealed to be an image of the One who made you and is still making you.
May the Yearly Examen and the Rule of Life merely be a tool for this to occur. Subsequently, may your students, athletes, staff, family, and friends be blessed and directed to Christ because of God at work in and through you.