Look Backward to Look Forward

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As my dad threw me the car keys he said, “Take this deposit to the bank as quickly as you can. It closes soon.”

I was home from college and hurried out to our narrow driveway, choosing my mom’s station wagon as it was last in the line of family vehicles.

The carline starting on the street outside the bank parking lot told me many people had the same last-minute errand on this Friday evening. I saw one of the lanes of the drive-through was empty and pulled to the left of the line with curiosity why others did not do the same. Too late I realized that window was closed.

Just as I determined to pull through and hope for grace by the smarter drivers to allow me to merge right into the bumper-to-bumper line, a Brinks security truck pulled up and blocked my way forward. Feeling anxious and embarrassed as dozens of eyes had nothing better to do but watch my driving drama as they sat in the carline, I began to back up.

Out of practice with the length of the family wagon, I cut the wheel and began my retreat. Suddenly I heard a weird, unfamiliar sound, but could not determine the source. I checked my rear and side mirrors, but saw nothing and continued slowly backing up. The sound continued for a bit longer then stopped. It stopped just as I left the confines of the brick drive-through lane.

Too late I realized that sound was the passenger side door scraping against the brick. Why Looking Backward is Essential

Holding back tears while completing the bank mission, I ran into the house as soon as I parked the wounded car in the driveway, shouting, “I had a wreck!”

As I related what happened at the bank, and that no one was injured, both my parents ran out to view the damage. With opposite reactions.

My dad chuckled and threw his arm around my shaking shoulders and said, “So you had a contest with the brick pillars? Looks like you lost, but you are okay, no big deal. We can fix it.”

My mother, the daily driver of the newly dented car, folded her arms, frowned, shook her head and said, “Why weren’t you more careful? You need practice using your rearview mirrors and backing up, clearly.”

She was right. My only other car accident happened decades later when backing down our neighborhood alley…and hitting a telephone pole. Again with many witnesses, sigh.

Looking Back Gives Wisdom for Moving Forward

At the beginning of a New Year, many are tempted to barrel into setting goals, making resolutions, starting new habits, and investing time and money into whatever promises the desired results. All this action without much reflection can be fruitless.

God created us with a remarkable tool, our memory. We should use this rearview mirror in our mind to help us make wise, mindful decisions about future plans and ambitions. Prayerfully searching through past events to find God’s work in our lives gives us a foundation to build upon with confidence and power.

Consider these words from Haggai 1:5-6 (MSG):  

And then a little later, God-of-the-Angel-Armies spoke out again:

“Take a good, hard look at your life.
Think it over.
You have spent a lot of money,
but you haven’t much to show for it.
You keep filling your plates,
but you never get filled up.
You keep drinking and drinking and drinking,
but you’re always thirsty.
You put on layer after layer of clothes,
but you can’t get warm.
And the people who work for you,
what are they getting out of it?
Not much—
a leaky, rusted-out bucket, that’s what.

And these wise directives from Galatians 6:4-5 (MSG):

Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.

Examination with Insight

God invites us to spend time reflecting in His presence, allowing the Holy Spirit to bring past events and experiences into view so that we can learn and move forward. Our job is to set aside time, settle into a posture of listening, put aside distractions, grab a pencil, take some deep breaths, and record what He causes us to remember.

Here are some sample questions we can use to stir up memories from 2017:

  • Where did we encounter new challenges or risks?
  • What accomplishments were completed? Projects not completed?
  • Where did we experience emotion-filled times?
  • What activities brought us a sense of intimacy with the Lord? With others?
  • What painful events took place?
  • What surprises occurred in our lives?
  • How did we obey the Lord? Disobey?
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As we consider the pluses and minuses of 2017, all useful bits of information, we cannot stay locked in the rear-view, regretting or reveling. We must do as stated in Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV):

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

 And the Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV):

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: 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.

 With proper review and awakened understanding of what God has been doing in our lives, we are now ready to move forward. Laying out thoughts and goals for the 2018 New Year demonstrates faith in God, willingness to follow His leading, and hope that our lives will thrive and impact others for Eternity as we go about our daily routines.

The Power of the Next Step

 As a professional counselor and life coach, I see many clients fall short of their targets. I also join many in their excitement of achievement and increased life satisfaction.

How do we move forward? What makes the difference between success and failure?

 I believe God has given us all that we need to succeed. Sometimes we don’t know how to access the resources He has placed in our skills, talents, personalities, experiences, and relationships.

Coaching is a powerful vehicle to move people forward in their lives.

Christian coaches encourage clients to listen more to the Holy Spirit and then to act. They can feel comfortable sharing their personal spiritual needs, values, doubts, and desires, knowing their coach will confidentially support them where they are and facilitate movement in the direction they want to grow.

Through coaching sessions, clients learn step-by-step how to live in new ways. Small actions lead to large accomplishments and need to be recognized along the way. Coaches love to celebrate a client’s success and also offer accountability which fuels the commitment to keep moving forward.

Having a list of SMART steps (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) to take away from each coaching session empowers the client to continue toward the goals between appointments.

We each have a calling from God and He has a plan for our lives. Take time to glean from the lessons of 2017 and hear His assessments of what happened to use as motivation for goal-setting in 2018. Access a life coach to help move powerfully from step-to-step and make this year mighty in the Lord!

Make the Most of Your Year

Get your free printable yearly reflection questions now.

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Gail Goolsby, MA, MEd is a lifelong educator, including past leadership at an international school in Afghanistan. Gail and her pastor husband of 39 years live where the wind blows over the prairie in south Kansas. She counsels and coaches using God’s Word to help others learn to live well.

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