A Mid-Year Examen

Jul 4 / Marsha Crockett
For years it’s been my tradition to practice a mid-year and end-of-year prayer of examen. Here I meditate on the intentions or focus points that I set at the beginning of each new year to determine how it has impacted the way I live out my days. Last January I made three intentions which I share here and invite you to use for your own mid-year examen along with the reflection questions noted after each one:

Live from rest. This came to me after meditating on the invitations from Psalm 23. But oh, how resistant I can be to resting. That resistance I realized was a response to the words “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” Almost sounds like a toddler being forced to take a nap. But I’ve decided that this is where I’m growing. The “making me” to lie down is much more about making me want to rest.

Integrating a form of rest into my daily and weekly rhythm is part of my rule of life and spiritual practice. Mostly it has called me to set boundaries and margins around my activities so that I have a moment to breathe, reflect, and shift gears before moving on to the next thing. Busyness can be the enemy that keeps me from resting in God’s grace and presence. The margins I set are a way to respect the activity and the energy I’ve given to it by allowing it to breathe and settle within my soul before I head into the next thing.

How are you living from rest in your everyday life?
When do you feel resistant to resting or wanting to rest?
What needs to change to bring you to a place of deeper rest and contentment?

May God be my greatest affection. I heard these words from a woman in one of my workshops and it so struck me that I adopted them as my own. At the close of each day I often ask, did I live with God as my greatest affection today? If not, by what priority did I live? What other forces drew me away? This is a prayer to pray over every facet of my existence. “May God be my greatest affection as I work… as I prepare a meal… as I engage in conversations… in my church… and in my relationships.” It becomes the unceasing prayer that realigns my heart to living content with the Good Shepherd.

Looking back through my journal since the beginning of the year, I see what has taken my time and attention. And these are good things – my writing and teaching opportunities, my family and friends. It doesn’t mean I cast these out of my life, but I pray for godly affection in the midst of these interactions. To the extent that I love God, I love others and myself.

Making God my greatest affection also has encouraged me to daily find time to be alone with this greatest love of my life. Time to be still and listen. Time to return to rest in Divine presence. Some days it comes in the form of a simple 20-minute centering prayer, or journal prayers. Other days I set aside for extended solitude, be it a half-day home alone, or a three-day get-away to a nearby retreat center. The focused communion of spirit feeds my soul and gives me the space and time to devote my attention and cast my gaze on the one who calls me beloved.

What does great affection toward God look like and feel like?
What gets in the way of finding time to be with God as your greatest affection?
How do you respond to seeking God as your greatest affection?

What will I give myself to this year? I like this question because it feels like more than “what will I do this year? Or what do I want to change this year?” It feels like a call to something deeper than a cause, an event, or even a spiritual practice. Giving myself to anything has to arise from and align with the first two commitments of living from rest, and letting God be my greatest affection. All three of these intentions work hand in hand supporting the other. So, I am giving myself to resting in the Divine presence and I’m learning again to give myself over to the affection of God toward me as I offer myself more wholly as I am, with great affection toward God.

Where have you given your time, your attention, and your energy so far this year?
Do those areas of activity or attention feel life-giving, or depleting in some way?
What are the Divine invitations in the midst of giving of yourself?

The examen of the heart practiced in the grace of God renews and restores the soul as we move toward tomorrow. May your reflections strengthen your heart, mind, and spirit with the wisdom needed to begin again. 

Marsha Crockett

Marsha Crockett is a certified spiritual director, meeting with clients virtually and in Port Orchard, Washington. She is also the author of the recently released book Sacred Conversation: Exploring the Seven Gifts of Spiritual Direction (Upper Room Books). In addition to her direction practice and writing, she leads workshops, retreats, and quiet days of reflection using the framework for the prayer of examen. You can reach her at marsha@marshacrockett.org. Or, follow her on Instagram: @marshakaycrockett.