On Tuesday afternoon, I was pulling into my daughter's elementary school to pick her up from after-school care. As I grabbed my phone to text that I had arrived, I saw the first new alert about the school shooting in Uvalde, TX. My stomach hurt, and I struggled to keep a smile on my face as she walked from the playground to the car. I felt afraid, angry, and overwhelmed.
Maybe you've had these same feelings this week. Maybe you're still in that place and not really sure what to do. I'd guess that a lot of us have felt something like this for a long time, even before this week's events. Earlier this month, I taught a class at St. Luke's called "Faith When the World is Falling Apart." After talking with so many of you over the past season, it was clear that we needed a space to grieve, a space to seek God in the middle of a lot of hopelessness, and some tools to help get us through.
One of the things that might have been surprising in this class was how much we focused on our personal spiritual practices. After all, the world is falling apart! We need to act, right? What good does it do to sit around and tend to your soul?
It might not surprise you that I would say that tending to our souls is one of the most important steps of action we can take. Yes, our faith compels us to act, but maybe our inner spiritual state is the first step to taking a faithful response. After all, it's easy to become reactive and untethered, anxious, and disconnected from the God who loves this hurting world. It's easy to feel like all the problems are too big so we should just check out and give up. It's easy to forget that hope and resurrection are key parts of our Christian faith, and we desperately need that reminder.
One of the practices that we experienced together in this class was The Daily Examen. This is a simple spiritual tool that helps us better notice how God is at work in our lives and in the world. It only takes about 10-15 minutes and can be done on your own or with a trusted partner. If I could boil The Daily Examen down to one idea, it would be "practicing hope." And hope does take practice. It takes intentionality to get out of the swirl of the day and actually pay attention to God in the middle of it all. It takes practice to realize that our stories aren't all bad or all good and that there is something holy in the gray space of life. It takes practice to return to God even in the darkest, hardest moments.
So, today, I offer you a simple version of The Daily Examen that you can try on your own. See how taking some time to reflect and pray helps guide your response to the pain we experience in the world:
Take a moment to be still and quiet. Notice how you feel, in your soul and in your body. Name those feelings to God now.
As you reflect on the day, consider if there were moments when you felt far from God.
Consider if there were moments when you felt close to God.
When were you aware of pain (your own or the pain held by others)?
How did hope present itself?
What is one thing you would like to offer to God today?
What is one thing you would like to receive from God in its place?
Take one more moment to be still and quiet, listening for whatever God might have to say to you. Amen.
Rev. Mindie Moore