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Come, my heart says, seek God’s face. Lord, I do seek your face!
-Psalm 27:8

Prompted by our entrance into Lent, our SPY Team spent a night talking about the season. What is Lent? Why do we observe it? How do we faithfully participate in the journey?  

If you grew up observing the season of Lent (not all denominations do), you know that it is a season of penitential preparation for Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday and provides a 40-day fast, in imitation of Jesus’ fasting in the wilderness before he began his public ministry. Originally, this time of preparation was for those wanting to be baptized. As a sign of their penitence, they wore sackcloth and were sprinkled with ashes. Eventually this became a practice for all the faithful, so we could be reminded of our need for repentance and God’s forgiveness. This is what Lent is and how we observe it, but how can we faithfully participate in the journey?

As the daughter of a former Catholic, I would sometimes give something up during the season of Lent. Most often this was chocolate or, if I was feeling especially ambitious or penitent, sweets in general. As I got older, I encountered the practice of adding something rather than giving something up. This usually involved a spiritual discipline of some sort: Bible study or devotional reading, intentional times of prayer, practices of gratitude, etc. And so, as we gathered for our weekly SPY Team meeting, I encouraged our youth to take on something during the season of Lent. Little did they know that we have been practicing a spiritual discipline every week without them knowing it, so they are seasoned experts.

Examen, known to youth as ‘highs and lows,’ provides a way of noticing where God shows up in our day. It is a practice that attends to what we might otherwise miss amidst the busyness of life. It can open us to both the difficult and the beautiful in our lives.  Some examen questions include:

  • For what moment today am I most grateful? For what moment today am I least grateful?
  • What was the most life-giving part of my day? What was the most life-thwarting part of my day?
  • When today did I have the deepest sense of connection with God, others, and myself? When today did I have the least sense of connection?

These questions open our attention to how God’s internal movement is present in our external comings and goings. They lead us to listen deeply to God and others. They help us pay attention to our mental state, our body responses, and our emotional baggage. Once these things are known, they become part of our ongoing interaction with God in prayer.

During this season of Lent, I invite you to join in daily examen as we take on an attitude of reflection and repentance, as we open our hearts and minds to the movement of God in our lives, and as we journey together toward the cross. May God bless you and keep you on the journey as we travel this road together.