Examen-ing the Bitter Root


Last night, I had a dream about a person I really dislike. In the dream, he was really “rubbing” me wrong and I woke up feeling angry, but also a little puzzled. I totally understood my anger – I always get upset when I just think about this person. But the emotion of being puzzled was what got my attention. I’m learning that when I “notice” something, I really need to go before God with it. So, even though it was about an hour before I needed to get up, I got out of bed, went to my office (my “sacred space”) and sought the Lord through Silent Prayer.

The Lord revealed to me that it was time to eliminate a bitter root in my life. Now, I kind of knew that my bad feeling toward this person was not a good thing. But I figured that since no longer see this person any more that I could just move on and dismiss this unpleasant chapter of my life. However, God didn’t share my opinion. I realized that I needed to forgive this person for what they did (knowing that the likelihood of this person ever asking for my forgiveness was slim to none) and to release the bitterness in my heart to God’s healing.

So I did and I thought that was the end of it. But God said, “Hold on a second. There are some other people you are holding grudges toward.” Sigh … So I brought each one up, looked at their sin against me, my attitudes toward them, and surrendered them to the Lord. When I climbed back into bed (I still had 5 minutes before the alarm was going to go off – stop laughing! I like my sleep), there was a lightness in my soul and peace in my heart.

Now the point of all this is not just about dealing with bitterness and forgiving others or getting up to pray in the early hours of day. I’ve written quite a bit about those topics. Rather, I want to say a brief word about the moment of being “puzzled” and “noticing” this emotion. One of the new spiritual disciplines I have tried to implement in my life is the “Examen.” The Examen is the process of reviewing my day in God’s presence. In the Examen, I do two things: first, look for those times where I was aware of God’s presence (called the “Examen of Consciousness”) and, second, those times when I departed from God’s path (called the “Examen of Conscience”). I’ve actually struggled to get consistency with this discipline, which I try to practice before going to sleep. But last night, I did practice the Examen, and I believe that the dream and my puzzled emotions were direct result of it.

The Examen gives permission for my soul to “open” itself before God. So even though the Examen the night before did not reveal my root of bitterness, it put my soul in position to be “examined” by God’s Spirit; which He did over the course of the night through my dream. The emotion of being puzzled was a warning “flare” to not dismiss the opportunity of transformation – which I could have easily done by focusing on the more predominant emotion of anger.

I am still learning quite a bit about the ancient Christian practice of Examen. I am grateful to Ruth Haley Barton’s work in books like, “Sacred Rhythms,” which have given me better handles on this practice as well as inspiration to desire honesty, truth and freedom in the depths of my being. The examined life is an important quality of a true Whole Life Worshiper.

How “examined” is your life before God and your soul?

Has God used sub-conscious promptings (like dreams, thoughts, attitudes) as a way to get your attention to areas that need His transformation?

(#ruthhaleybarton #sacredrhythms #examen #bitternessforgiveness #godspeakingthroughdreams)

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