Recently, I asked my family, “As the door closes on 2011, what are your most prominent reflections on the year?”
It’s funny; no mention was made of graduations, travel or jobs (there was a lot of activity surrounding those things this year). Rather, their answers all seemed to center on the importance of their relationships.
My son and daughter-in-law commented, “We are far from home and the relationships we’ve made in our small group at church have been invaluable. They are a reminder of why continued fellowship is so important to us.” My youngest daughter remembered her oral final exam from one of her tougher college courses. Not for the grade, but for how a discussion on Paul’s literary style called up the words necessary for a defense of her faith and the opportunity to share the gospel with her professor. My oldest daughter readily replied that during a particularly trying time in her life she was grateful for the help she received from so many just when she needed it most, and for the courage to accept it. My husband’s response was about the incredible group of men that he works with in Iraq, a dangerous and uncertain environment. He considers their camaraderie and ability to persevere essential for their very tough assignment. Thomas Paine said it well, “The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection.” As for me, I am reminded once again how God bestowed grace on my insignificant self in a generous way. He has continued to give me wisdom in regards to my relationship with my aging parents and shown me that with Him, I can navigate the tough roads. All of our reflections seem to have a great deal to do with our relationship with Christ. And, as we all know, relationships require attention.
Someone who knew about reflection was Mary the mother of Jesus. In Luke 2:18-19 we read,
After the shepherds had seen the child, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
What exactly does it mean to treasure and to ponder? The Greek word for “treasured up” in verse 19 is suntereo, meaning to preserve a thing from perishing or being lost or to keep within one’s self, lest it be forgotten. Likewise, “ponder” is sumballo, meaning to gather together in one’s mind or confer with one’s self. Mary knew some big things were happening in her life and she was paying attention. She was reflecting on all that had happened to her and putting it into perspective. In her Bible study on Women of the Bible, Vicki Kraft describes what the environment may have been like for Mary,
“I wonder what she was thinking in that humble place. God’s Son had been born in the equivalent of what today would be a stable! There was no family there to share their joy.I think God deliberately sent a bunch of excited shepherds. They came in wonder and awe, telling the amazing story of an angel who had told them that a Savior was born, and then the sky was filled with angels praising God. …He sent these humble shepherds to rejoice with Mary and Joseph. We get insight into her reflective nature from Luke 2:19. “… Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” …This is a very thoughtful, deeply reflective, spiritual woman.”
The words in Luke indicate a quiet reflection in Mary that is consistent with her obedient and patient character. It is evident in her interaction with events and people God puts in her path. Her responses set an example for us in reflecting on God’s word in our lives. Quiet reflection on the truths of the scripture often reveals God’s miraculous way he lovingly cares for us every day. Friends and family who support us, co-workers who labor diligently alongside us, words of faith that come at the proper time and a peace that passes all understanding when understanding seems impossible. Quiet reflection enables us to recall God’s word and remember His past faithfulness, sometimes so easily forgotten. It allows us to progressively trust the Lord more readily with our lives. Quiet reflection is a discipline honed through regular application. It brings into focus what we really need to see as the confusing chaff of the world fades into the background.
I know that keeping New Year’s resolutions is a notoriously fickle process, but I’m praying that I can engage more diligently in quiet reflection. There is plenty of room in my life for improvement. For 2012, I want to be guided by Psalm 119:16, “I shall delight in thy statutes, I shall not forget Thy word.” I pray that your 2012 will also be filled quiet reflection.
Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts with you this season. It has truly been a blessing.