Bella and the Practice of the Examen

Bella’s favourite place to practice the Examen was in the bathtub with candles lit. Lectio365 night-time offered the familiar beginning words: The day is done, the night has come, Thursday will soon be over. And so, in the quietness of this moment I still my soul to spend this time with you. It is hard for Bella to let the day end; she is not sure why. Hearing someone say this truth out loud helped.

“Holy Spirit, go back with me now through my day and help me see where you, the Father and the Son have been present, where I have been blessed and walked in love and where I have sinned.”

It was a joy to remember the start of the day. Practicing silence in her contemplative community, one of the verses from the day before returned to her mind. She had chosen the word “free” to be in silence with. That word of longing attached itself to “You surround me with glad cries of deliverance.” Whispy forms of white, like willowing clouds or fresh white sheets off the clothesline moved in a silent song all around her. She delighted to think that the Trinity was singing songs of deliverance to her and over her. The song went back and forth – the Trinity crying out deliverance and Bella calling out the refrain “free!” She started to think about what it meant right now to be free – free to just be in God’s wonderful presence and not carry burdens too big for her. But as soon as she started to try and figure it all out in her mind, she lost the beauty of being in the middle of the Trinity and the cries of deliverance. She simply had to place herself there again, say her holy word she had chosen, to enjoy this beauty once again. She wished she could hear the actual words of God’s deliverance songs, but that wishing took her out of silently resting in God’s love too. She had read somewhere that to enter into silence, we consent to being in the presence of God. They should have mentioned how many times a person had to return to “consenting!”

It was a blue-sky kind of day and cool enough to walk at noon. She wore a jersey dress and her running shoes. That always brought out the kid in her. Just enjoying the beauty was a gift. Halfway home, she remembered the Muslim family that was killed in London and she prayed for the little boy left behind. She felt the anguish at the thought that he could grow up bitter because of so much being taken away from him. “Please send healers to him, Lord. Please send those who can help him love again.” It all seemed so beyond a small boy’s capacity to hold such sorrow. She felt God’s heart as she prayed.

In a work shop she was in, she heard once again the different struggles the people had in loving themselves and receiving God’s love. She felt anger at how the church held out what it meant to follow Jesus. She felt frustrated that it was so hard to even put into words all that the theology lacked. People listened to the things she said about lavishing and unconditional love but she could see the big “but” on their faces. “Lord, forgive me – I am part of the church and I have been part of this way that has enslaved people and kept them back from your love. Don’t let me point fingers.”

In another meeting, a leader hadn’t measured up to what Bella thought she should be. She remembered the feeling of judgment towards her…a kind of hard place, “Lord, forgive me for my judgment. Help me with my expectations so that I can walk in the way of love even here.”

The day closed with three grandsons roasting marshmallows for smores, skinny dipping in the pool for the first time…laughing and being boys without a care. She stayed off the deck where she could hear them but not ruin their freedom in running and jumping in. The joy of it was so deep. She wondered if God was laughing and enjoying their child like freedom.

She tucked them all in, locked the doors, opened windows wide to bring in the night breezes and thought how blessed she was to actually be young and well enough to enjoy the next generation of children.

The day is done, the night has come, Thursday is now over. Bella let the day go and thanked God for helping her to go back over it so she could see where God was present to her. She thanked Jesus for cleansing her from her sins and loving her so deeply. Blowing out the candle, she whispered, “Goodnight Lord. I love You.”

Photo by Erik Mclean - Unsplash

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