When I first heard about the Daily Examen many years ago I was very attracted to it. I liked its simplicity and brevity and also the collective affirmation of several centuries of Christian practice behind it.
So I did it. Every night before going to bed I would reflect on both the desolations and the consolations of my day and seek to hear the voice of God in this practice.
Sometimes my wife and I would even do this together while we walked our dog. We had been in the habit of doing this anyway in a more general narrative of our days but focusing on specific consolations and desolations seemed to be valuable.
Unfortunately this pattern began to be repetitive in a very predictable way. The amount of work I had and did not get done was always a strong desolation while getting something accomplished was almost always consoling. This did not seem like spiritual rocket science!
I realized though that the wisdom of this practice was not so much to keep a daily scorecard but rather it was to discern habitual patterns of spiritual struggles and growth. Overwork has and continues to create feelings of desolation.
But I have learned from these times of extended reflections that I don’t need to be trapped by the expectations of work I place on myself and absorb from others. In fact even the times of reflection have become times of consolation as I can better put my work or lack of it into a bigger spiritual context.
Now I don’t always practice the daily examen in a rigorous daily way. Instead I find that a weekly review and time of journaling provides a more satisfying rhythm of in-depth spiritual reflection.
Yet, when I feel stuck in certain ways I go back to the daily examen as a spiritual diagnostic tool to help me get unstuck and to better hear the voice of the Lord. What seems to be most important isn’t the timing but the listening.
Do you have a specific way that you reflect on your day?
Have you tried the discipline of the “daily examen”? If so, what was your experience?
Bob Fryling is Publisher of InterVarsity Press and has recently written The Leadership Ellipse: Shaping How You Lead by who You Are. (IVP)