Like many of you, I am effortlessly drawn to the little computer I carry with me in my pocket. We call it a phone, but that’s probably the least of what we use it for. And also like many of you, every time there is a lull, I’m pulling it out and letting that little computer take me away to social media or any number of other apps.
Several months ago though, I found myself aimlessly doom-scrolling during my lunch break. And when I say aimlessly, I mean eyes glazed over with muscle-memory taking over. I was in trance. Transfixed to the blue light of the screen with my life force being drained. Immense amounts of coronavirus and election news swallowing me and my soul up, in one convenient gobble. I always felt spiritually drained after spending time on my phone.
There had to be a better way to spend my lunchtime. More efficient use of the time that split my workday into halves. I have always been drawn to the mystical and profound knowledge of the Desert Fathers and Mothers and the contemplative nature of Ignatius of Loyola. I dug in, knowing that I could find something within their words and practices.
A daily examen seemed to fit this criterion. The daily examen has its origin over 500 years ago with the aforementioned Ignatius, as an act of not only prayer but taking stock in how the day or week has gone. The word examen, with its Latin roots, means simply, “an examination.”
Aside from its origins with the Jesuits, the examen also has a scriptural basis in verses like Lamentations 3:40 (“…let us test and examine our ways. Let us turn back to the Lord.”) or Psalm 139:23 (“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.”). The best part about an examen is, it can be modified to fit when and how you see best in your own life. Whether you put it into practice at the end of the day, week, or as I have at lunchtime, it can greatly benefit you.
Below I am going to outline questions that have worked for me. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I invite you to modify it as the season of your life dictates. There is no right or wrong way to do this. The point is to spend quiet moments with God. This can be done in 10 minutes or an hour. The length is up to you.
I will preface and say it helps to find a quiet, secluded place where you won’t be disturbed. If that’s not an option, maybe try using headphones with gentle ambient sounds or quiet meditative music.
Lunchtime ExamenStart with a moment of silence. Take this time to prepare yourself. Open yourself to God and begin to expunge the “white noise” of your day thus far.
Give thanks for the day and receive it as a gift from God.
Ask God to illuminate the first half of the day. To look at it through His eyes, not our own.
Begin to review the day. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you.
What troubled you in the first half of the day? Was it within your control? Ask for guidance in how to move past these moments — do you need to forgive? Or apologize for a moment?
Ask what went well in the first part of the day? What do we have to be thankful for? How were you a conduit to God’s love?
Look toward the second part of the day. Again ask the Holy Spirit to guide you forward.
Another moment of silence to process and bring yourself back to the present moment.
I hope you find this practice as fruitful as I have. It truly has transformed my lunchtime and has brought me a greater sense of God’s presence throughout my day. Again, modify it as you see fit to your journey. This is not a formula as much as it is a guide to get you started. May God bless you and shine his fullness of love and grace upon you.
• Matt Walker is pastor for North Star Vineyard Church. “Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders. It appears every Friday on the Faith page.