My nighttime prayers were once filled with berating myself for the day past. Making sure I got all my ducks in a row before the Almighty. Rehashing my sins and confessing them so that I could be “right with God” once again. It was probably born out of a belief that God was crazily concerned with my right behavior (according to what and who, I’m not sure) instead of my broken, but wanting-to-heal heart. Somehow, even though I was his daughter, my evil deeds from the day could somehow catapult me into a severed relationship with Him. So, before I slept, I made sure I was all “good” again. No wonder I kind of secretly hated this process. I could never be sure I had remembered and confessed them all. What if I missed some? Would He be mad at me? Would our relationship still be “on hold?” So one day I just quit. I needed a break from the shame, guilt and fear I felt at the end of every day. I spent the time scrolling my phone (which I sometimes still do, TBH).
I also spent it snuggling with a murder mystery book.
I mostly spent it avoiding this God who I supposedly had a wonderful relationship with. Time marched by. Enter my cute husband. Talking about things like his “Daily Examen.” How he ends his day much of the time. Sounded a little old-school for me, but I new-schooled it and looked it up on the “Googler,” as my one friend calls it. This is what I found out about it: “The Daily Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern his direction for us. The Examen is an ancient practice in the Church that can help us see God’s hand at work in our whole experience.” (ignatianspirituality.com) The basic goals of it are to: 1. Become aware of God’s presence. 2. Review the day with gratitude. 3. Pay attention to your emotions. 4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it. 5. Look toward tomorrow. It all sounded like a big relief for me and a good way for me to redeem that precious time I have right before I go to sleep. I’ve been doing it in fits and starts for a few months, even keeping track on a spreadsheet (I get it…I’m nerdy like that). To make a long story even longer, I came up with 11 questions I talk to God about at the end of every day. Here they are: 1. What event happened, small or big? 2. What gifts did I receive? 3. Where did I show courage? 4. Who showed me love and support? 5. Where might I feel stuck? 6. What challenges did I face? 7. Where did I pause? 8. What emotions am I feeling? About what? 9. How did I sense God’s presence? 10. What is my response to the God of my life? 11. With what spirit do I want to enter tomorrow? It hasn’t been magic, but it has been helpful. ESPECIALLY NUMBER 4. You see, I tend to want my poor husband to be my constant and ever-faithful person who loves and supports me. All by his lonesome. And I get a little annoyed if he doesn’t measure up to that impossible standard I’ve set for him. This question gets me thinking about all the people and ways God shows up for me, one loving and supportive act, thought, prayer, choice at a time. It’s been so good to end the day reminding myself about how God has provided for me in ways I may have missed. I also think my husband is a lot happier because I’ve let him off the hook from being my one and only source of love and support. OH! AND NUMBER 7. I am the “Esthergizer Bunny,” always going and going and going. But I secretly want to be the “Take-It-Slow Turtle,” knowing that hurry seems to cause worry and rushing seems to cause restlessness. So PAUSING at least once a day to breathe (imagine that, it’s my Word of the Year) and be present to God and what’s right in front of me, has been a gift beyond gifts. So there you have it. Nothing grand. Nothing monumental. But good. Very good. From my heart to yours,
Esther P.S. For a deeper glimpse into my sometimes all-over-the-place brain from last night, here are the answers to my questions: 1. I had a stay-at-home day. I wrote. I listened to hurting friends. I met with a couple I am marrying. I had a continuing conversation at dinner with my family about something hard we are going through. 2. A FaceTime from my daughter. An electrician who put in a bathroom fan…he came on time…woohoo!!! 3. I asked some hard questions of my hurting friends. Uncomfortable. But brave of me. 4. My daughter. My husband. A friend who prayed for me. Another writer. 5. I don’t know exactly what to do about this hard thing. I am going round and round in circles. 6. See number 5. 7. I took 20 minutes to do Yoga right before dinner, ending with breath prayers and the phrase “God loves me with an everlasting love.” 8. I am feeling them all right now (as usual), but especially doubt. Not sure what’s the next right thing to do. 9. God showed me Himself in the wineberries we found and ate on our walk. He’s just fun like that. 10. Help me! HELP! 11. Clarity and direction. Peace and comfort.