Most evenings when we eat dinner together with our children, we ask them two specific questions, 'what happened in your day today that was good, and what happened in your day today that was not so good?' These questions come from the ancient practice of the examen, where for centuries people have found direction and learned to see God at work by identifying these moments – the moments that are most grateful for, as well as the moments they are least grateful for.
In reflecting on our day, our week, or even on a specifc moment or experience, we create a space in which we can begin to see how God speaks to us through the details of the day, both in the moments we are grateful for and the moments we would rather not remember! St Ignatius included the Examen in his series of Spiritual exercises, expecting God to speak through our deepest feelings and yearnings, our moments of joy and sorrow. As we practice the discipline of this kind of ongoing reflection, patterns begin to emerge that can help us discover more about God, ourselves, and the journey we are on with God.
Where the examen has been most helpful for me is in reminding me what it is that brings me life. The Linn family have written a book called Sleeping with Bread and in it they tell the story of how, in WW 2 orphaned children in places of safety battled to sleep because of their anxiety over what might happen tomorrow. They found that giving children bread to hold and sleep with each evening, helped them sleep through the night. All through the night, the bread reminded the children, 'today I ate, I will eat again tomorrow'. Holding on to those things that give us life is how we live with hope.
The examen can help us uncover where we find life, and how to live with hope. This practice is something we can do on our own, as friends, as families, as small groups and even as a community. So this week, I am grateful for the joyful privilege of spending time with people, one on one (something which is definitely life-giving). I've heard people's stories, shared my own, listened, and encountered God. As you head into a new week, why not find opportunities to reflect on these questions, on your own as well as with the groups you form part of. And in sharing the stories of joy and sadness, in discovering where we find life, we begin to be people who share our bread with others.
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