An End-Of-Year Examen
It is the end of the year, 2017. It is easy to perhaps breathe a sigh of relief that the year is over, and maybe – flippantly – mumble a resolution for the coming year, or even create a spreadsheet filled with goals. Consider with me another way to journey across the edge of 2017 and into 2018.
The Ignatian Spiritual practice of the daily Examen involves intentional reflection of the day at its end, to see God’s action in it, recognize when I did not move in God’s presence, and acknowledge my desire to more closely move in that presence tomorrow. At the end the year, it is fitting to practice a similar examen of this past year. Will you join me in mindful attention of examen for this year – see it for what it has been, notice my reaction, your reaction to the events, hold loosely these things in God’s presence, and bring our intentions for the new year into awareness of God’s presence and intention toward you, toward me.
Psalm 139 is a beautiful prayer-song to guide the process.
Psalm 139: a healthy process of self-examination involves
- vv. 1 – 12: Awakening to the presence of God. “There is no place I can go where I can fall out of your presence, my God. Even the darkness is as light for you.”
- vv. 13 – 18: Celebrating your created goodness. “You formed my inward parts, knit me in my mother’s womb. Nothing is hidden from you. Your thoughts are beyond comprehension – yet, I am still with you.”
- vv. 19 – 24: Inviting God to search your heart. “Search me, O God, and Examen – see if there is anything wicked in me. Lead me.”
Prepare. Spend a few moments in silence, allowing yourself to become still and aware of God’s unconditional loving presence.
Review the year. I will walk you through the steps of the discipline commonly known as the examen with the aid of a chime. It will begin with 2 chimes to help draw us deeper into that space where Jesus dwells. Listen for the that space where the sound ends and the silence begins. Listen.
- Look back on the events of the past 12 months, asking God to guide you in seeing what God wants you to see.
- As you reflect on the events, ask Jesus to show you where he was present with you, even though you may not have recognized it at the time. [How was I drawn to God this year: a friend, an event, a book, the beauty of nature?]
- Ask the Spirit to show you the places where you are growing and changing. Thank God for evidence of this transforming work in your life. [Have I been a sign of God’s presence and love to the people I met this year? Wonder and remain some moment in awe of these graces.]
- Ask God to show you places where you ignored Jesus’ likeness in you. Be careful not to succumb to shame or morbid introspection; instead, see it for what it is and simply name the loss honestly, confess it to God, and receive God’s forgiving grace (1 John 1:9).
- Thank God for the year and for God’s presence in your life, remaining open to Jesus in your center as your intention for the new year develops. With open hands, hold it loosely in the loving presence of God.
The Inescapable God
To the leader. Of David. A Psalm.
1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
3 You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.
7 Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11 If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night’,
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
I come to the end*—I am still with you.
19 O that you would kill the wicked, O God,
and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me—
20 those who speak of you maliciously,
and lift themselves up against you for evil!*
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with perfect hatred;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts.
24 See if there is any wicked* way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.*