Before you go to sleep at night, does your mind start to automatically rehash your day? Mine does. And, often enough, my mind zooms to the least favorite episode of my day - least favorite because of something someone said or did to me, or something I said or did that I'm not proud of.
Tonight, for example, I'll be rehashing the fact that in the Weebly blog I posted last night, "The Less Frantic Version of Me," I made a mistake: I said that in Jesus' parable, the priest did not stop to help the wounded Samaritan. My keen-eyed husband caught the mistake this morning; the priest did not stop to help his wounded Jewish kinsman, but the Samaritan did. I immediately edited and corrected my post, but I felt embarrassed - I have a Degree in Theology, I've had a zillion Scripture courses! (Of course this is my prideful self surfacing.)
Often we do this at bedtime - mentally whip ourselves (or someone else) for bad or inept behavior. But, while it's wonderful that we do a review of our day at bedtime, it's important to do this while focusing on God first, and with God's aid. And to look at our actions and reactions from God's perspective.
Because, the real reason for and point of doing a review of our day is to find God. Every bedtime, if we look back at our day and ask ourselves "Where was God today? How did I find God? How did God find me?" - we will suddenly realize that we DID find God. And He DID find us!
The Jesuits (the current Pope is a Jesuit priest), an Order founded by St. Ignatius, are terrific at describing how to meet God in our everyday life. William Blazek, S.J. says "When our eyes are open, all of us can see God everywhere, in people, places, and things, in ideas, actions, and chance meetings." The Jesuits have a format for reflecting on the events of the day in order to detect God's Presence and discern His direction for us. This format is called the Daily Examen (Examination) and Jesuits do this at noon and at bedtime every day.
Here's a Five Step version of the Daily Examen:
1.) BECOME AWARE OF GOD'S PRESENCE: Ask God to be with you and aid you as you prepare to mentally review your day. Some people begin by picturing God comfortably sitting next to them on the couch. I personally talk to God in bed, curled up with my pillow. You'll discover that once you invite God "in," He'll even tell you about your day, and you'll listen!
2.) REVIEW YOUR DAY WITH GRATITUDE TO GOD: Ask yourself where God was present to you in the events, sights, sounds, tastes, and sensations of your day. Fr. Blazek writes about finding God during his daily subway commute to work in Washington, D.C. He sees God in the other commuters; he thinks about God working through the hands and minds and hearts of the men who toiled to build the subway; he hears God in the breeze at the subway station. God, if we look, listen, touch, smell, taste, is present in all things. (Especially in loving hugs and hot fudge sundaes, but that's my preference.)
3.) PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR EMOTIONS: If we really pay attention to how we felt during the day, it's easy to find emotions such as joy over beauty, love, togetherness, and delight with music, art, our accomplishments, but sometimes it can be harder to face other emotions like bitterness, anger, pride, fear, hurt, frustration, guilt, etc., that signal the problem areas of the day. Let the emotions revolve in your mind without undue anxiety - just observe them.
4.) CHOOSE ONE FEATURE OF THE DAY AND PRAY FROM IT: Perhaps our overwhelming emotion about the day is peace; we can pray from peaceful, joyful, thankful hearts. But if there are negative emotions, we can pray to find the source in ourselves, the reason for these emotions. Perhaps we were hurt by another, and need to pray over our feeling of wanting to get even. Perhaps we were impatient, unhelpful, or rude to someone, - or ignored someone. Perhaps we need to form a resolve to change some attitude or behavior in ourselves, and to ask God to help us in our resolve.
5.) LOOK TOWARD TOMORROW: When we've looked at a whole day in a holistic way, we can rejoice because we have seen how and where and when God was present to us and acted in our lives. We can also see the good that we've accomplished with God's help and be proud of ourselves, content with ourselves. With God's strength, we can put the things that have happened to us or that we've done in their proper perspective and not waste energy mentally obsessing or whipping ourselves over them. And we can promise God to be more attentive to what happens in our life and to do better. There's always tomorrow! If God has been with us today - and we've seen that He has been! - He will certainly be with us tomorrow!