“D” is for Debrief
Perhaps the most misunderstood feature of the Explore Program is debriefing. Debriefing is the time after an event when everyone: (1) talks about what happened during the event, (2) discerns how the event’s happenings demonstrate God’s truth principles, and (3) discerns how what we learned during one specific event applies to our understanding of God, and can apply to how we live the rest of our lives.
To some people, it looks like we are sitting down, talking about feelings and over-analyzing our lives—which, honestly, can happen if the debrief is not directed back toward truth-principles.
I am often surprised when students roll their eyes over debriefing, or when other people outside our program make fun of debriefing. For a variety of reasons, many people consider the practice of debriefing to be silly, or “wimpy.”
When a person learns to debrief his experiences, however, he learns that the Lord can show the receptive heart truth principles in any experience. The practice of debriefing teaches the mind and the heart to approach life ready to learn from anything.
For example, when I was an Explore student my team went rock climbing and had an argument. We sat down with our interns to debrief the day, and the topic of our team’s conflict arose. We talked through how the argument had happened, and why various aspects of the argument were significant. In our situation, the disagreement had stemmed from mere differences in perspective, which then compounded tension when several of us strongly asserted our perspective over other team members. Then we discussed the body of Christ, and how each person fills a different role. I realized a simple, life-changing truth: when another person has a different perspective, it may be because she is different and not because she is wrong.
Our lives are riddled with moments that have profound capacity to teach us, if we will only slow down, look those moments over, and see what we can learn from them. The practice of intentional debriefing forms a habit of reflection that enriches our lives and continually points us back toward God.
Consider the Lord’s debrief with Jonah in Chapter 4:
What Happened: Jonah hates Nineveh and is furious with God for His mercy toward the city after the people repent. Jonah tells God he is so angry “he wishes he were dead” and then sits down outside the Nineveh to watch and see if his temper-tantrum will induce God to destroy the city. God sends a green vine to shade Jonah, which Jonah appreciates. The next day God sends a worm to kill the vine, and then sends a scorching hot wind, both of which Jonah does not appreciate.
Why the Event is Significant: The reader infers that Jonah is furious about the plant dying because Jonah lost his shade and his comfort. Jonah is relating with the world through a selfish perspective. God asks Jonah if he ought to be angry about the plant, to which Jonah responds, “Yes, I am furious and I wish I were dead.” God points out that Jonah is very concerned over the plant, which was relatively inconsequential, but that Jonah is not concerned about a city of over 100,000 people who are living in spiritual darkness. The message is clear: All people matter to the Lord, and all people should matter to His followers. The Lord desires us to share Him with those who need Him.
How the Lesson Applies: The book ends without giving us Jonah’s response, potentially because at that point in the story the author shifts his focus to challenge the reader. If we can be immensely concerned with insignificant things, like Jonah’s green plant, how much more concerned should we to be with important things like obeying God and sharing Him with others? To apply the lesson is to see all people through God’s eyes, and to love our neighbor by sharing Him with others.
So, God debriefed with Jonah, and the story was recorded in scripture in such a way that we, as readers, are challenged to jump in and debrief alongside them. Just as in Jonah’s story, our lives simply need to be sifted through in order for us to discover the nuggets of truth that the Holy Spirit can reveal to a receptive heart.
Hannah M. Landon
Hannah is married to Dennis and together they direct the Explore Program. Although Hannah was occasionally annoyed by debriefing as an Explore Student, she now can’t seem to do any activity without processing it later. It is a good thing that Dennis is a good listener.