• Bill McLean

Reflecting on Experiences

This week during a Zoom call with other pastors, a friend reminded me, “It is not the experience that transforms you, it is the reflection on the experience that transforms you.” And yes, it is both as deep and as simple as it sounds.

Everything that we experience impacts us, but not everything that we experience transforms us. It is only when we reflect, learn, and grow that we are transformed by our experiences.

Over the past year, we have all experienced many new things. Yet not all of us will be transformed by what we have experienced. To be transformed we must intentionally reflect on what we have experienced, learn from that reflection, and then grow into the new us.

Experiencing the isolation of the last year as we have been limited in who we can be with has impacted us, but has it transformed us? What have we learned about ourselves and others through this experience? What have we learned about our priorities when we are not able to be with others? How are we using this information to become a healthier person going forward?

As I have shared in other musings, I am working on making more memories this year. And part of that is very intentionally reaching out to family and friends so that we do not become invisible to each other just because we cannot be together. Making those memories means being in the moment and it also means making the connections.

Our congregations and the presbytery have experienced isolation this year, but has it transformed us? What can we learn about our priorities based on our experiences of what we have done and what we have left undone during this challenging year?

As we have experienced new ways of doing familiar things like worship, meal programs, Christian education, and pastoral care what have we learned?

There are things that have happened that we are justifiably excited or proud about, and there are things that have happened that we wish we could do over so that we do not make the same mistakes. As individuals, as congregations, and as a presbytery, we need to reflect and learn from these experiences so that the learning leads to transformation.

As we transition from the ups and downs of the past year into a more regular flow of life how do we maintain the creativity and energy for new things that we experienced during the past year?

For example, how have we worked to help the new people who have joined us virtually (or those who have moved away and reconnected online) become part of our community of faith so that as we transition back to hybrid or in-person worship those who are only able to join us virtually are not left on the outside?

Through reflecting on the experiences of the past year, we can be transformed and be part of the transformation of our communities, so what time and space will you set aside this week (and this month, and this year) to reflect on what we have experienced since last March? What have you learned? And how will that learning transform you going forward?

For me, this means regular intentional conversations with others to reflect on what I have experienced and to my surprise the weekly journey of writing these musings has also become an important component of my reflections.

Whether you see this as something deep or as something simple: May you not only experience life, but may you reflect, learn, grow, and be transformed by the experiences of life. And may the peace of Christ be with you.

Grace and peace, Bill Rev. William "Bill" McLean, II Presbyter for Congregational Care Presbytery of Southeastern Illinois

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