My wife, Kellie, and I were sitting across the dining table from each
other last night, each working on our laptops and trying to finish up
end-of-the-day stuff. “Hey, we can come back to this later, honey. Why don’t we
do a little Examen?”
As we settled into our comfy chairs, the reflections just
started pouring out. Granted, we had some weighty topics on our minds given
that relatively young friend in Maryland had just died unexpectedly. As we gave
ourselves space to actually feel the emotions surrounding that event, we felt
God tend our souls together: the sorrow, the fragility of life, the sympathy
for his wife and kids—all anchored in the presence of God and in our prayers
for God’s loving comfort.
That reflection gave way to fresh insights about our
relationship with one another—how God was meeting Kellie with wisdom from a
difficult conversation the day before, how God was helping me be more attentive
to her everyday desires. As we walked downstairs to start making dinner, we
felt immense gratitude for those precious moments of connection…and the
awareness that this experience might all have been lost to us if we had stayed
on our laptops.
The Need for Connection
The competition for our attention is fierce, is it not?
Between the urgent demands of being a Young Life leader, a college student, an employee, the pressing needs of family, and the incessant distraction of our mobile devices—along with the craving for
distraction and entertainment that those demands exacerbate—we don’t have much
bandwidth left over for the one thing that matters most.
Connection to our own hearts, connection to the people we
love most, and connection to God: we know intellectually that these comprise
the tap-root of life…and we all live to some extent with an underdeveloped root
system, making the “tree” of our lives unstable at best, untrustworthy at
Where were you in my day?
What were the spiritual movements within my soul?
What would you want me to notice or change or celebrate from
What if there was a spiritual practice that was as natural
as it was simple, one that required no great knowledge—only great desire? The
ancients called it the Daily Examen, and it is one of the most potent
ways to pay attention to the story of our lives. Paying attention: isn’t
that the crux of life? The alternative is to sleepwalk our way through our days
with only passing awareness of what’s really happening and why it matters.
The Daily Examen
470 years ago, a Spanish priest named Saint Ignatius of
Loyola articulated the terms “consolation” and “desolation” as tools for paying
attention to the movement of God in our lives. Consolations are those things
that move us closer to God, closer to life, closer to love…while desolation is
its opposite: those things that move us further from God, from life, and from
As we pay attention to the spiritual ebb and flow of our
lives, we begin to notice experiences, conversations, activities, and
situations—both large and small—by looking at them through these lenses.
Ignatius also structured this consolation/desolation idea as a daily practice
he called the Examination of Conscience…or the Daily Examen for short. At the
end of each day, sit down in a quiet, peaceful setting—either alone, with a
spouse, or with a spiritual friend—and tune in. Some light a candle. Kellie and
I like to add some Chardonnay and aged cheddar to the experience.
So what do you do?
Allow your mind to scan back across the events of the day,
asking Jesus, “Where were you in my day? What were the spiritual movements
within my soul? What would you want me to notice or change or celebrate from my
day?” Take turns sharing those consolations and desolations with one
another…and respond in prayerful silence or with a gentle affirmation.
How easy is that? It’s one of the simplest yet most
powerful practices for paying attention to your spiritual journey and spiritual
partner. Ultimately, both consolations and desolations are meant to move us
toward God as we grow in our ability to notice and respond to God’s work in our
lives over time. I am finding this to be true in mine.
Jerome Daley is an Executive Coach at Thrive9solutions.com and has experience coaching Young Life staff. Jerome partners with Christian leaders in business and ministry to grow their internal
health and external leadership. His recent book Monk in the Marketplace
offers more spiritual resources and strategies like the Daily Examen.