My dear friends, as you might remember I began this season of Lent with the intention of practicing the Prayer of Examen more regularly (translation: daily) and it seems that I have failed. I simply have not been able to sit down and go through the process of the Prayer of Examen I found -- the one that captured my heart. And this inability to remain committed to my intention to practice this discipline has garnered much of my interior thoughts and time with God.
And so I have been wrestling, and I've been pretty judgmental and harsh with myself on this issue. If I were to be honest with you and myself, I would have to admit that I have felt as though I failed at this whole Lent thing this year and quite possibly missed out on an opportunity for deeper, more intimate union with the One who is Love. And, my friends, I have lived with this question ("Have I failed?") with God and myself these past two weeks.
When I awakened this morning I felt well rested, which is very unusual for me as I am a rather restless sleeper; however, along with that feeling there was another one -- one I could not name. But, I continued on with my morning quiet time, found my favorite spot on the couch and set about the business of my quiet time with God. Nothing really happened -- nothing monumental, but this unnamed feeling remained, until just before my quiet time ended, and its name bubbled up -- empty! I felt empty, but not in the negative connotation of that word but rather in a most positive way -- I was empty of that feeling of being a failure.
At almost the exact time I was able to name this feeling, a familiar question bubbled up. John Mogabgab, editor of Weavings: A Journal of the Christian Spiritual Life, says we are called to ask ourselves a question that is the true measure of success in life, "Have I loved well?" And so, as the question, "Have I loved well?" bubbled up, I realized that I had been asking that question of myself regularly during these past few weeks. More than that, I realized as I had been taking not only the asking of this question but also the answering of this question very seriously, as a matter of my soul -- that I had been practicing the Prayer of Examen! I had over these past few weeks cut out all that didn't work for me and narrowed it down to the one question that alone mattered, "Have I loved well?" In the asking and answering of this question, with God's loving arms wrapped around me, I was practicing the Prayer of Examen.
I share all of this with you, my dear friends, not to direct you to my way of practicing any spiritual discipline or practice but rather as a way of reminding us that the purpose or intent of these practices (spiritual disciplines) is to draw us -- to point us -- to Grace and to draw our souls toward a deeper, more intimate union with God. If after practicing a discipline or method for several weeks isn't doing precisely that, it may be time to seek the Spirit's guidance and wisdom or perhaps to find a wise Spiritual Director. I say this, also, because I know that this realization didn't just bubble up within me at some obscure time -- I know my Spiritual Director was in deep prayer for me and my soul last night -- asking God to give me a Word not just for those with whom I sit giving direction but for also for me. My dear friends, spiritual disciplines matter, really matter, and we need guidance in the practice of them.
And I am immensely grateful.