Debriefing Life

The other day, my eldest son called me. He was having a difficult time with a friend. I will spare you the details. As we talked it became clear, my son valued the friendship to the point he was willing to forgive all. This was a huge opportunity for my son to grow in an area he admiringly struggles with – holding a grudge.

Our conversation debriefed the situation and looked at it from God’s perspective. I have to say I was proud of my son. This is a hard thing for him, but it was great seeing him lean into God’s Kingdom way of handling it.

A quick read of the gospels reveals that Jesus saw life and ministry as the classroom for spiritual formation. Over and over He would lead His disciples in ministering to people and later sit down with them and 1. Evaluate what they did; and 2. Debrief the experience.

Matthew 15-16 is a great example of the process He used. Earlier Jesus had fed 5,000 men plus the women and children. This time there were only 4,000 men plus the women and children. Just as before they had some bread and fish to begin with and they ended with much more than they started.

As they began traveling to their next stop, the disciples realized they had brought no bread with them. Hearing the discussion, Jesus said, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees…” The disciples thought He was talking about the fact they had forgotten the bread.

Jesus began to Evaluate their ministry (Matthew 16:8-10):

Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 

“Do we really need bread? Doesn’t the previous experiences teach you about what we are capable of?” Jesus asked. “God is the provider. We just have to join Him in what He is doing!” Getting better at ministry included trusting God to provide. Working by faith not just trusting in the raw materials.

Jesus didn’t stop there. He moved into Debriefing Life (Matthew 16:11-12):

11 How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Jesus used the experience of feeding people and the issue of not having bread, to help His disciples understand the problem with religious teaching instead of a relationship with God.

Evaluation helps me get better at what I do. Debriefing moves me closer to who I am becoming in Jesus.

For so many of us, whether we are coaching a sports team, supervising employees at work, parenting our children or leading a ministry team at church, we rarely take the time to evaluate. Evaluation is critical to continually improving.

We evaluate by observing what we did well so we can replicate it, what we didn’t do so well so we can revise it, and what we did poorly so we don’t repeat it.

However, debriefing life is key to maturing. When we are leading others we have to value them even more than the task we have before us. It isn’t just getting the job done, it matters how you navigate relationships as you do it. Evaluation helps me get better at what I do. Debriefing moves me closer to who I am becoming in Jesus.

We debrief life through reflection, discussion, and committing. We reflect on what we are learning about God, others and ourselves. We talk about Jesus’ Kingdom ways. We decide to act on what we are learning.

We need to build evaluation and debriefing into our existing lives.

We are all busy. We can’t just add evaluating and debriefing on top of our already harried schedules. So, what is the solution? We need to build evaluation and debriefing into our existing lives.

Let me suggest three simple, but not easy changes we can make to build evaluation and debriefing into our lives:

  1. Raise Relationships to the Highest Level of Priority in My Life. Jesus was clear relationships are God’s top priority. Everything else falls in line after our relationship with Him, our family and everyone else. But unfortunately life tends to draw us away from these priorities. Making a conscious decision to correct the slide and put our relationships first is the first step to experiencing life transformation towards maturity.
  2. Simplify My Calendar. Well, I just had to meddle didn’t I. This one steps on my toes hard. While I know some activities are evil by nature, most of the choices we have in life are good. The goal here is to choose what is best. The world would have us focus on the urgent. We really need to schedule around our priorities. That doesn’t mean we don’t get our work and chores done. It means limit what gets on the calendar to allow for prioritizing relationships. What gets on the calendar should be purposeful. Even play is purposeful. I think you get this, it isn’t knowing but doing that is so hard here…
  3. Celebrate Life. I believe the reason we don’t have time to evaluate and debrief is because we don’t take time to celebrate. We accomplish one thing or we don’t even finish it, and we move on to the next. Busyness has replaced living. The biblical principle for celebrating life flows out of the concept of Sabbath. God rested not the seventh day, not because He was tired, but to celebrate what had been accomplished. Ultimately the Sabbath is about celebrating relationships.

When we celebrate, we naturally talk about our experience. It is an easy step to purposely evaluating and debriefing. It moves us from aimlessly wandering through life to a trajectory a maturating process to become everything God intended when He created the unique and wonderful you!

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