This morning I prayed the Examen, reviewing the last 24 hours with God’s help. As I jotted notes in my journal on what arose while praying, I was yet again struck by all the ways God encountered me and I encountered God in my day. I noted God in the beauty of our backyard, where I watched bluebirds and cardinals flitter from the bird feeders to their nest. Memories of the belly laughs of my four-year-old at the dinner table and a heartfelt conversation with my husband after our kids were in bed reminded me of the ways God’s love exudes from the people in our lives. I remembered the lightness and joy I felt as my fingers typed on the keys of my computer and I lived out my calling to write.
I also recalled a funeral I attended the day before for a 28-week-old baby. As I named my sorrow and deep sadness, I also remembered watching the love of the husband so gently and tenderly supporting his wife in her sadness. I remembered the words of the closing song at the funeral and how comforted I felt as we prayed for the child’s soul to be received by God. God, too, brought to my attention gifts that maybe I was holding on to a little too tightly or trying to nudge to the center, displacing the Giver of the gifts.
As I closed my journal, I sat in awe again as one of the key principles of Ignatian spirituality played out before me through my look over my last 24 hours: finding God in all things. There is an intricate dance in praying the Examen, between God showing us how God can be found in all things and our search to find God in all things. It never ceases to amaze me how with a little help from the Holy Spirit we can listen for God and find God in all things.
St. Ignatius’s opening mediation of the Spiritual Exercises offers defining characteristics of Ignatian spirituality. I often think of these four main pieces of the First Principle and Foundation as follows:
- The goal of our lives is to live with God forever.
- All things are gifts from God. They are given to us to know God better and love God more fully. Our invitation is to grow our awareness of God’s abundant gifts.
- As we name the gifts, we are to hold all the gifts and desires of our heart in balance, centered securely around God, the Giver of the gifts. No gift is to displace the Giver of the gift.
- Of all the gifts available to us and all the choices we can make, we are to choose what best leads to the deepening of God within us.
The Examen is a prayer tool that invites us to continue to put these principles into practice. It helps us listen and look for God in all things. It tunes our focus on what is helping us grow in our relationship with God and what inhibits our growth in our relationship or tries to displace God as the center. Finally, by reviewing each day through God’s eyes, our path can become clearer as we know the steps that will lead to choices that deepen God within our lives.
From my experience of over a decade of praying the Examen, I believe if we pause each day to look for God and listen for God, we will find God.