Yesterday I gave a workshop on Surrender and Discernment. They are related because often we get stuck on our surrenders or when “turning things over” because we haven’t done the work of drilling down to see what—exactly—our needs are, and therefore what it is that we need to surrender or “turn over” to our Higher Power.
There is a spiritual practice called The Examen that comes from the Jesuit tradition that helps us sort out what’s good for us and less good for us. The Examen is a kind of daily inventory and gratitude list combined.
The suggestion for how to do The Examen goes like this: Each evening you take a few minutes of quiet time, maybe light a candle, and sit with your journal and write down the answers to these questions:
*What gave me energy today? What lifted me up?
*What drained my energy today?
*What was I grateful for today?
*What was I not grateful for today?
The idea of doing The Examen is that over time (you do this for 21 to 30 days) a pattern will be revealed that shows you where your truest and best energy and gifts lie. It’s a practice of following your own energy, even your own pleasure.
We sometimes assume that what is pleasurable to us is also a joy to others but actually not. One of my great pleasures is reading three newspapers every day. That would be a chore or a bore to many people. And their love of cooking would feel like torture to me. You get the idea.
This idea of following one’s pleasure or best energy to discern one’s passions and talents is also described in Marion Milner’s book, “A Life of One’s Own.” Each night Milner looked over her day and asked herself what truly gave her pleasure. A key insight that she shares in her book is that so often she—and we--try to enjoy something because others enjoy it rather than finding out what we ourselves really enjoy.
It strikes me that for women in recovery this may be a new kind of inventory and also a way to find where God is working in our lives.
It also reminds me of a fear I had early in recovery of turning my will over to God. I thought that if I did completely surrender my life to God, that he/she would want me to be a missionary in Africa.
Where did I get that idea? Probably too many Sunday School stories as a kid, that missionaries in Africa were especially godly people.
When I admitted that worry to my sponsor she pointed out that God would probably not want me to be a missionary because I was too fussy about my hair and clothes, and that even though I liked camping, being a missionary wasn’t at all like a camping trip and, she said, God was smarter than that.
My sponsor pointed out that God had other plans for me that more likely included the skills and preferences he designed into this model. It did take a while to get that, and even harder to believe it. But later it clicked; my ministry involves language: speaking, teaching, writing etc.
So, what is yours? Trying the Examen for 30 days can tease that out.