Some days it’s hard to be a mom. I have big fears about my kids. I love them fiercely and desperately want them to be okay, to know they are loved and to be able to love well in return. I want them to be accepted by friends, to do well in school, to be good at something. The list goes on. I know it’s part of life for them to fail and learn to confront difficulty and face challenges, but it’s hard as hell to watch them do it. Questions about when to step in to protect or cushion the fall, and when to allow them to stumble and learn and grow on their own are constantly on my mind.
And then sometimes the stupid stuff feels hard, right? I know it’s ridiculous, but the endless pile of laundry actually does stress me out. And then there’s the unopened mail, the Legos under my feet, the seemingly always full dishwasher, the homework to review, etc. As my task list grows and my house get more cluttered, I become increasingly irritable, and then (of course) I feel guilty about that. “Why does our house have to be so clean anyway?” Brennan asked the other day. Why, indeed? Sigh.
The daily stressors of my one little life sometimes feel daunting. Like I’m trying to run a marathon when I’m not even up for a 5k. I’m doing my best, but no matter how long or hard I run, I never seem to catch up.
Woven within the fabric of the pain and sadness and fear and anger in my life (and, I imagine, in all of our lives) is this incredible joy and beauty. I believe that beauty is God whispering to us – to me – of something both beyond our present moment and yet also buried within it.
One of my favorite spiritual formation activities, the Daily Examen, is a prayer that allows us to search for those God-breathed moments, feelings and experiences in our daily lives. If you have never prayed the Examen, let me encourage you to set aside 15 minutes alone or with a spiritual friend and walk through this five-step prayer:
1. In the Examen, we intentionally become aware of God’s presence.
God, I know that you are here. I long to be present to you. Reveal yourself to me.
2. We acknowledge that all of life is gift and examine the day with gratitude.
Bring to my mind the gifts of this day – however small. Thank you, Lord, for the sound of Lily’s belly laugh. Thank you for the smell of autumn leaves and the taste of hot apple cider tonight. Thank you for helping me to slow down and play red light-green light with Brennan.
3. We ask for God’s help to review the day – where we loved well, and where we missed the mark.
God, I know that you are present in my life. Show me your presence in both the events and the feelings I experienced today. Be near and reveal me to myself even now. Where did I see you? Where did I miss you?
4. We reconcile with Christ through asking for healing or forgiveness.
God, I need your gracious touch in my life. I need your healing here… I confess my own shortcomings and failings here… and I ask your forgiveness. I acknowledge my need for you and my inability to run this race alone.
5. We respond to God’s love for us and look toward a new day.
Lord, I long to hear your voice and respond to your call. As I review your presence and movement in the events and feelings of the day, what might be your message or call for me? I acknowledge my longing to respond faithfully to that call, and I entrust myself into your love and care. Enable me to walk in the path you have for me.
“Bidden or unbidden, God is present.” (Erasmus). Whether my day is filled with joy or fear or contentment or anxiety, God is present. I may not feel or see or acknowledge it, but that doesn’t change the reality of what is: God is present.
I hope you will join me this week in practicing the Examen. Find a few moments, a quiet space and an honest awareness of your desire to be present to God. “Give me space for salvation,” the psalmist writes in Psalm 71. “Be a guest room where I can retreat.”
Sometimes in the midst of my life as a mom, wife, friend, daughter, human, etc, I need to step out of the race. Perhaps you could also use a quiet space to retreat. Let the Examen be that for you this week. May your eyes be opened to the light and life of God’s real presence in the muck and muddle of your ordinary life.