Something I should do more often, because I am gradually observing its effects, is the examen. Most of you have no idea what I’m talking about, and some of you are saying, “Yes, for the 50th time already!”
This is a form of Ignatian prayer that…oh, this is just much easier. Here:
The one I do is a spoken, guided examen (or meditation, for those of you who need that word to feel spiritual but not religious) from the Pray As You Go app. It’s accompanied by Purcell’s “Hear My Prayer, Oh Lord,” which is super helpful to get in the spirit of things. More importantly, to get in The Spirit.
It seems pretty simple, right? But when you glance over your day with the caveat that you will see what is important to God, it changes the review. You are simultaneously drawn to things you would otherwise find unimportant, & repulsed by things you kind of overlooked before. This is not meant as a form of self torment, but as a reality check. You are neither as good or evil as you think much of the time.
Your life is also much more lovely that you think. Really.
For example…I was having a bit of a difficult day yesterday. I am tired of being sick. So tired. I dragged myself to church because I really enjoy church, but it was also the annual parish meeting. We elect vestry & the folks who will go to diocesan convention. I was nominated for the latter, but am so new to the parish that I’m the last alternate. And that’s okay.
It was a long meeting. I took a lot of medication. By the time I got home, I was exhausted and weepy, but not actually weeping, and I was inexplicably annoyed. Then my team won, & is going to the Super Bowl, & that’s good, but I was still really fragile, which is a thing I do not enjoy.
During the Examen I was able to see where illness was making me mopey and where moments of genuine, really lovely joy occurred (& weirdly, they had nothing to do with the Pats’ victory).
Through the eyes of the Holy Spirit, I found moments of hilarity I’d forgotten about, was able to correctly see incidents I had previously assigned negative connotations to, and more deeply understood some of my own unhealed parts. I was able to forgive them & realize that they were amplified by illness.
Through the eyes of the Holy Spirit, I could see the many faces that had turned to me that day, and see their expressions anew. I could see where people were looking to me for comfort or affirmation. I could see it was not just me yearning for human acknowledgement (nobody, not even church people, wants to hug you when you’re sick), but others looking for it from me (and then recoiling in terror because I am sick).
There are still some things I don’t understand today, and that’s okay. If we’re really honest with ourselves, we understand virtually nothing anyway.
New questions have been brought up, new challenges. Some are really scary. Some are ones I’ve wrestled with for the past 12 years (or more), & I should probably set them aside until I am well.
I am frequently accused of being too patient, but in some areas, I really am not patient enough.
In a lot of ways, things were much easier to understand when I was a very sad, afraid person, because I always had a rock solid framework of misery through which to view the world, and I was always right. But I now realize I was right because my viewpoint couldn’t help but create my reality.
Oh my God, what would happen if my rock solid framework was simply following Christ, as in yesterday’s gospel and homily? What reality will that create? Can you even imagine? The idea is terrifying and exciting and magnificent.
I am struggling free of this net. Now what shall I do, flopping about on this boat deck, gasping for air?
It is interesting that I identify with the fish and less with the fishermen in the gospel.
Maybe I should pray about that tonight.
Here are some books I have written.