One Way to Ruin your Life
April 5, 2017
Over lunch this week, I was talking to a friend of mine. One of those deep dives into our lives about the things that drive us to do what we do, the things that cause us pain and distress, the things that resonate at the core of our personalities. Just a typical Monday at Qdoba, I guess. He said to me, “most people go through their lives without a clue as to what makes them who they are.”
That really stuck with me–the thought that most people live an unexamined life and, therefore, have no really pathway for growth as a person. We just finished a sermon series on “6 Ways to Ruin Your Life” that centered on the idea that most people live a normal life… but that normal life is often disconnected, unexamined, and broken way of living. So why be normal? What if God has a life for you that so much better than “normal”?
When it comes to examining ourselves, how do we practice a different way of living?
I’ve been working on my own self-examination of my life over the past few months through a specific way of praying that might be helpful to you in your own growth and connection to God. It’s called “the Daily Examen” and it’s a great way to look for God’s presence in your life and explore what He’s doing in you and through you every day. It really has transformed how I see God at work in my heart, my relationships and my life.
I tend to start every day with this exercise as I prepare for the day ahead, though many people end their day with this exercise. Here’s a bit of instruction from ignationspirituality.com:
More than 400 years ago St. Ignatius Loyola encouraged prayer-filled mindfulness by proposing what has been called the Daily Examen. The Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and to discern his direction for us. Try this version of St. Ignatius’s prayer.
1. Become aware of God’s presence. Look back on the events of the day in the company of the Holy Spirit. The day may seem confusing to you—a blur, a jumble, a muddle. Ask God to bring clarity and understanding.
2. Review the day with gratitude. Gratitude is the foundation of our relationship with God. Walk through your day in the presence of God and note its joys and delights. Focus on the day’s gifts. Look at the work you did, the people you interacted with. What did you receive from these people? What did you give them? Pay attention to small things—the food you ate, the sights you saw, and other seemingly small pleasures. God is in the details.
3. Pay attention to your emotions. One of St. Ignatius’s great insights was that we detect the presence of the Spirit of God in the movements of our emotions. Reflect on the feelings you experienced during the day. Boredom? Elation? Resentment? Compassion? Anger? Confidence? What is God saying through these feelings?
God will most likely show you some ways that you fell short. Make note of these sins and faults. But look deeply for other implications. Does a feeling of frustration perhaps mean that God wants you consider a new direction in some area of your work? Are you concerned about a friend? Perhaps you should reach out to her in some way.
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it. Ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to something during the day that God thinks is particularly important. It may involve a feeling—positive or negative. It may be a significant encounter with another person or a vivid moment of pleasure or peace. Or it may be something that seems rather insignificant. Look at it. Pray about it. Allow the prayer to arise spontaneously from your heart—whether intercession, praise, repentance, or gratitude.
5. Look toward tomorrow. Ask God to give you light for tomorrow’s challenges. Pay attention to the feelings that surface as you survey what’s coming up. Are you doubtful? Cheerful? Apprehensive? Full of delighted anticipation? Allow these feelings to turn into prayer. Seek God’s guidance. Ask him for help and understanding. Pray for hope.
St. Ignatius encouraged people to talk to Jesus like a friend. End the Daily Examen with a conversation with Jesus. Ask forgiveness for your sins. Ask for his protection and help. Ask for his wisdom about the questions you have and the problems you face.
The Daily Examen is one simple way to explore your life in new ways… to ruin the old and normal way of living and to dive deeper into who you are, and who God is in your life!