As church leaders, we are busy. There is never enough time in the day to get all the things done that we want to get done. We feel like we are constantly “behind the eight ball” as the saying goes. Our to-do lists are never ending. The demands on our time from truly needy people seem to overwhelm us. Events happen throughout the day, and we must respond with grace and compassion, while at the same time remaining professional. We reach the end of our day exhausted and completely spent. There’s no time for anything else.
Or is there?
A few years ago, I began scheduling into my week a time for intentional reflection. This took a variety of forms, whether it be journaling, prayer, counseling, or having a cup of coffee with a trusted friend. Reflection became the way that I was able to truly experience life to the fullest, rather than simply running from task to task, meeting to meeting. It made every encounter with others more meaningful as I was able to share from my own life’s learning after having carefully processed my challenges, my joys, and even the seemingly mundane.
To truly thrive in both life and in our roles as church leaders, intentional time set aside for reflection is crucial. We can actually achieve more and find more meaning in life through this simple discipline.
What will I get out of it? What’s in it for me? If you’re still not sure that reflection has earned a place in your cluttered schedule, let’s look at four benefits of reflection that will certainly enrich your life, both personally, as well as in the life of your church.
1) A chance to process life’s events.
We’ve already agreed that we are all unmanageably busy. We go through our day with a wide variety of activities and meetings, many of which are meaningful both personally and for our church members. However, are we really attune to the significance of all that happens to us in life? Taking time to reflect on the day’s events helps us to process what we are experiencing. Reflection allows us to think deeply about what is happening and the emotions that correspond to life’s events. We can reflect on our personal and professional goals and determine if our everyday actions are consistent with all that we’ve said we want to accomplish. We get the chance to determine what we would have done differently, and what things fill us with a sense of honest pride. We see how God is working in our lives and have the chance to notice how we are growing and evolving as individuals. Without this deliberate processing, we may miss out on the deep meaning and personal development that accompanies the happenings of daily life.
2) A chance to create space to hear from God.
It is absolutely true that God and His Spirit speak to us in a still, small voice. Many times in life, we are moving so fast and operating at such a fast pace that this quiet voice is drowned out by the loudness of a frenzied existence. Reflection provides us with the quiet time to sit still and focus our attention on what God wants to say to us. This may take place during meditation on Scripture, or it may be in a time of prayer and silent listening to God. The spiritual discipline of silence is one that few of us practice but all of us need. Sitting alone with our Father, we can bring before him both our needs and our feelings in a open and authentic time of communion. Let’s face it: we pray and pray and pray, often claiming that we’re not hearing from God. But do we actually take the time to sit in stillness and give God a chance to speak to us? Times of reflection provide us with the quiet that we need to fully embrace all that God may be saying to us.
3) An ability to refine our beliefs.
In the course of our day, we read books and articles. We interact with a variety of people, teachers, and experts. We even prepare sermons and lessons that seek to teach others the basics of the Christian faith. Over time, as we learn more and more from a variety of good sources, the way we think about life and faith may change and evolve. We may grow in our understanding of God and all that He has planned for His people. A regular, planned time of reflection allows us to purposefully think about all that we are learning. We can assimilate that new knowledge into our repository of understanding and determine how our beliefs, attitudes, and philosophies are changing over time. During times of reflection, especially those that include journaling or writing in some form, we can commit to paper our developing belief systems as we see how God is moving us forward in our understanding of Him and His ways. Without this time to reflect and refine our thinking, the added information swirls in our brains with nowhere to land. Reflection brings it all together and helps us to grow into the people God is making us day by day.
4) A chance to truly feel our emotions.
During the busyness of our days, we are many times loaded down with emotions that, for the sake of the ability to function, we push aside and refuse to feel in the moment. While that can be an adequate coping mechanism in the short term, the long-term suppression of emotions never produces good results. Creating the appropriate time to reflect on our feelings can assist us in our emotional development as we make our way through life’s ups and downs. Perhaps the processing of our emotions is best done with the help of a counselor. Maybe journaling is the way to go. Whatever the method, the recognition of emotions and the acknowledgement of their influence on our lives are crucial to thriving in life and in ministry. Dealing with our emotions helps us to interact more productively with others. Reflecting on our emotions can even help us help others who may be facing the same challenges we are facing. This won’t happen automatically, however. We have to set aside specific time of reflection to intentionally address these feelings. It will certainly be worth the effort to do it.