The birth of a child. The best job you ever had. The day she said yes. The family vacation that really was relaxing. These positive experiences stick with you. They remind you of the joys of life in the past. But they don’t just stick with you as a mental image; they forever alter you from the person you were to the person you are.
The death of a parent. The day you got fired. The pile of debt. The huge questions about raising a teenager. These negative experiences stick too, remind too, and alter too. The question you must answer is, “How do these experiences, both positive and negative, impact what I believe about myself today? How did God use them then, and how does He still want to use them today?”
Several years ago, I sat down with a pastor friend who instructed me to use a pad of sticky notes to discover the answers to those questions. I wrote down all the positive experiences and things I enjoyed: singing in high school, marrying Jamie, working outside with my dad in our yard, time at Indiana Wesleyan, etc. I wrote down the negative things: my dad’s brain injury, not being athletic enough, serving alone far away from family at a dying church, etc.
Then we began to connect the dots from experiences to beliefs. Then we reflected on what God did through them. And finally, we reflected on what God wanted to keep doing through them.
Small group leaders are just as human as the rest of us. And God doesn’t waste our pasts. Every moment is His. Every success and failure can be redeemed and redirected for our present shaping into the image of Christ. Our histories are a vital aspect of the way we facilitate conversations, gravitate toward biblical topics and steer clear of others, react to the others in our group, etc. And until we name them, we shortchange God and His gracious willingness to wrap them up under the words of Jesus, “Behold, I make all things new.”
So, perhaps you can guess what comes next. That’s right. Pick up a pad of sticky notes. Put each positive experience on one color and each negative on another. Then lay them out however is best helpful to you: chronologically, grouping by similar experiences, etc. Then answer the questions: “How do these experiences, both positive and negative, impact what I believe about myself today? How did God use them then, and how does He still want to use them today?”