Each evening when my head hits the pillow, the last thing I do is an ‘examen exercise’, a focused reflection on the day that has passed, giving thanks, looking for high points, low points, energy spikes, darkness, relational connections and the presence of God in all of it.
It’s a very simple but effective way of daily noticing what is happening in life and of seeing Gods hand. In the movement of the day it’s a bit harder to be conscious of the spirit’s work, but in the silence and dark of the night as I replay the day’s events in my mind I am able to join some dots, glean insights and get curious about what God may be doing.
Yesterday was a fairly typical Friday – a ‘church’ day for me – with meetings, people connections, admin and a bit of down time. It was so typical that it would have been easy to miss the moments of joy and fun. But an examen allows you to tune into the often unseen moments of gladness and pain that may otherwise go unobserved.
And it was a surprising few minutes of reflection.
As I turned the light off and gave thanks the first images foremost in my mind were some Facebook pics I had just seen of my 13 year old son Sam, doing his first talk to the kids groups he is involved with leading. It was inspiring and joy giving – to see him doing it – but also to hear him articulating the nature of his own faith as we drove home.
As I looked for stuff to be alert to I was reminded of a conversation from earlier the day – a person who wasn’t doing so well and needed prayer and probably a follow up conversation. I prayed for the person.
When I looked for moments of joy where my energy levels rose, I found two that I didn’t expect. One was when I fixed the sound system in my car. A dodgy earth wire was causing an amplifier to cut in and out randomly. I don’t know much about sound systems but I managed to track and fix the problem.
Satisfying. I like fixing things especially things I have little grasp of. In ‘noticing’ that I was reminded that I find enjoyment in the accomplishment of stuff and I like problem solving. Perhaps I should do more of it…
The second was a funny moment when we picked the kids up from youth group and I noticed the high school boys having a chin up competition. I joined in and my 14 chin ups raised a few eyebrows – hardly olympic standard, but always nice to keep people guessing about what a 52 year old body is capable of… I chuckled as I drove off with the kids. The joy was in the surprise.
There was much in that day to be grateful for, to ‘pray about’ if you like, but I find the examen is most helpful for tuning in to the activity of God and to the more specific and unique moments that bring energy to my soul.
You can’t manufacture those moments, but noticing them, seeing a pattern and then living in line with them is just another way of being more fully the person God has created you to be.