Examen for the Year
By Katie Harmon-McLaughlin of San Anselmo, CA, USA
Praise the LORD, all you nations! Extol him, all you peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD! —Psalm 117 NRSV
I hold the fullness of this past year in my hands, gently turning over its events, expected and unexpected, feeling the ways it has formed me. I notice the weight, the substance of all that has occurred as I recall the moments of sorrow and grief, as well as celebration and joy. Memories of moments, people, thoughts, growth, questions, fears, resolutions, reconciliations, plans derailed, and purposes discovered all rise to the surface in me as I sit, present with what is now my past. I become tenderly aware of the presence of God, which has graced my days and can be traced through every memory.
I sift through these memories for gifts of gratitude and spend time with a number of questions: What have I experienced or received this year that now shines as treasure in my life? Where does my heart well up in thanks? What has brought joy, fresh vision, growth, or energy? For what can I truly say, “I am grateful”?
Next I take time to pay attention to those moments that might otherwise hide in the shadows, preferring to be left unseen. I draw them out not with judgment, but love. Honestly, gently, I dare to ask, “When was I not my best self this past year? When did I resist or refuse the divine invitation? When did I offer less than my true capacity? What did I hold back, and why? When did fear rule the day? For what do I need to humbly request, ‘Forgive me’?”
I sit in silence, attentive to everything moving within me. I feel an urge to open my palms as though I am really trying to hold it all at once, a whole year of life. Whatever comes, I let come—a rush of joy, uncertainty about the future, all this grieving still untended, a sense of life’s wholeness in the midst of brokenness. What does all of this have to teach me? How might I listen for God’s voice amid these real memories? What feels especially significant to simply sit with for a while in reflection and prayer?
Finally, I pray that everything that has happened will deepen me then I offer my future to God. I hold out my best intentions, my hopes, my dreams, and everything unresolved that propels me into growth. I hold out the entirety of who I am becoming as I stand on this threshold of another new year. Sharpen my vision, O God. Make more alert my senses. Give me wisdom to see you and seek you in all that lies ahead. Amen.
Christmas Prayer Phrase
I ponder the mystery being born in me.
Invitation to Spiritual Practice
Spend a few moments dwelling in God’s presence. Pay attention to where your heart feels drawn into prayer. What words, images, or themes in this story lead you to reflect on your own faith journey? What is God’s invitation to you this day?