By Nancy Nethercott
What a year 2020 has been! Maybe, like me, you have experienced much this year you would like to forget about…and get on with life. But before we just move on and jump into 2021, I invite you to reflect on this past year in a way that the term “Hindsight is 20/20” encourages. “Hind = back + sight = look” refers to the ability to see past events more clearly than we could at the present time. This visual acuity is actually useful and important in our spiritual lives, allowing us to learn from the past and grow. But, it takes intentionality to spend time reflecting.
Christians have a great tool for reflection in the Examen, a prayer of awareness that St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, taught in his Spiritual Exercises. The Examen, typically used on a daily basis, provides an opportunity for peaceful reflection, inviting us to find God in all things. By looking back and recognizing the movement of God in ourselves and events of our day, we see ourselves, in retrospect, enveloped in the God “in whom we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
The Examen can also be a meaningful tool to look back over the past year to find God in all things. I invite you to take some time to pause and reflect well on the past year of 2020 and enter the New Year of 2021. You may want to journal your thoughts and prayers. Don’t rush through this process!
The Examen consists of a few introspective prompts for you to follow or adapt to your own spirit. Before you begin, identify some major markers of your year to orient yourself to the time period. Pause and take a slow, deep breath or two; become aware that you are in the presence of the Lord. Ask the Holy Spirit for the grace to help you review the year with God’s loving eyes and heart.
Review for the past 12 Months:
What am I especially grateful for this year?
An event that took place?
Courage that I mustered?
Love and support I received?
A fresh insight I received that encouraged me?
I ask for the light to know God and to know myself as God sees me.
Pay attention to your emotions:
As I think over the year again, I notice my emotional responses to the memories.
Where have I felt true joy this year?
What troubled me this year?
What has challenged me?
Where and when did I find an opportunity for renewal and pause?
Have I noticed God’s presence in any of this?
I ask you Lord, to help me linger with these emotions, whether pleasant or difficult, inviting understanding of why I feel the way I do.
What can I learn about myself, how and why I responded the way I did, or about the situation as I dwell in my emotional responses?
What can I learn about you, Lord? What is my response to you?
Look toward 2021:
As I look ahead to the coming months and year what comes to mind?
What challenges and blessings might await me? (Think of important relationships, major or minor decisions that need to be made, plans that are made, skills to learn or habits to build, healing to seek…)
I bring those challenges and blessings to you, God, and ask for the grace I will need.
End your prayer time by thanking God for His presence in the past, present, and future.