Re-Storying Your Life Through The Prayer of Examen
Last week, we discussed our tendency to believe we live in a story as a victim or hero. While we all play these roles at times in relationships, victim or hero can't become our identity.
1. A victim-identity leads to self-condemnation because victims:
Live life in the courtroom of morbid introspection.
Stay up at night second-guessing what they did or didn't do that day.
Side-step grace as if it's for others but not them (anti-Romans 8:1).
2. A hero-identity leads to self-righteousness because heroes:
Avoid thinking about failures, weaknesses, or limits.
Sleep great because they're clueless about how they hurt others.
Thank God like a 1st Century Pharisee that they're not like all those other sinners (Luke 18:11).
God's story offers us a much better identity.
A Better Story
We are not the hero of our story; God is. We are also ultimately not the victim; the cross victimized Jesus on behalf of our sins to save us from the scandal of death.
If we're not the hero or victim, then where does that leaves us? In God's story, we are His children. And as children, we possess the assurance we need.
Assurance of God's Fatherly love empowers the victim to self-evaluate without further condemnation. Surety of our God-given identity frees the hero to confess sin and boast in weakness.
When we live as God's beloved children, we free ourselves from the trappings of the victim and the hero by living from a story that's ancient and true.
Re-storying Our Lives
Since we trend toward playing the victim or hero, what can we practically do to live more into our identity as God's children? St. Ignatius' prayer of examen can help.
More than 500 years ago, St. Ignatius called his community to practice the examen at noon and night. He designed the prayer to help us reflect on God's Fatherly love and examine what story we are living.
Here's a model for the prayer examen:
Ask God to make you aware of his presence and love (1-2 minutes - you can even add a breath prayer here).
Review your day going hour by hour. - Thank your Father for every good gift/experience (James 1:17). - Ask for forgiveness for sins (Luke 18:13; 1 John 1:9) and healing from suffering (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
Look toward tomorrow, asking how God wants you to respond to His love.
If you struggle to think about your day in terms hours, you can always process your day through what St. Ignatius called consolations and desolations.
Consolations are memories that bring a smile to your face — the moments of your day where you experienced joy, God's nearness, or living out of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)
Desolations are memories that pain you — the moments of your day where you experienced frustration, forgot about God, or carried out works of the flesh (Galatians 5:16-17).
The point is to re-experience your day with God and to recalibrate your awareness of His Fatherly presence.
As you rehearse the good news of God's presence through the prayer of examen, God's Fatherly love changes your perspective, reorienting you to your true identity. As you imagine the next part of your day, your security as a child of God informs how you live and love others.
What are you doing to live in God's story today?
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