A congregation of the United Church of Canada
January 4, 2023
This year I decided to make a whole bunch of little resolutions at New Years. Nothing major, or dramatically life-altering, just little course corrections and reframings that I think will help me navigate my life more fully. Well, here we are 4 days into the new year, and yup, you guessed it, I’ve already stumbled on some of my resolutions. Some of my resolutions are off to a wonderful start, but some are not. I could sit here and beat myself up about those so-called failures, but I’m not doing that. They’re just little things, and they can certainly be restarted any time I want, like today. There’s nothing magical about January 1st. It’s just a convenient blank slate as the calendar page turns for another year.
More important than ruminating about my shortcomings is reflecting on something really remarkable. That we even think about making something like a resolution is a wonderful thing. To craft a resolution means that you paused, pondered, reflected, looked at your life, or habits, or desires, thought about what you might do differently, and devised a method of attempting to bring it to fruition, because you felt it would make your life better in some way. We can get into trouble if we do such examining too critically, or hurtfully. Too often we are our own harshest critics. But the act of reflecting on your life and having that reflection produce insights into making your life richer, or fuller, is a wonderful practice. In fact, it’s a spiritual practice!
The spiritual practice is called the ‘examen’. It can be done daily, as you pause and reflect on your day before sleeping, and it can be done at important seasons in your life in a more holistic way (called a ‘life review’). Ideally, in an ‘examen’ we look for where God’s Presence has been noticed in our day, or life, and how that noticing (or not noticing) has influenced us. The ‘examen’ also includes a desire to ‘do better’ the next day/season at noticing and embracing God’s Presence. If you didn’t notice God very much yesterday, you don’t throw your hands up in disgust, and scold yourself, and quit. You just ‘resolve’ to do better the next day.
As always, such messages require this reminder to be gentle with yourself. For me, I’m in the middle of a ‘2 funeral week’ that was already shortened by a stat holiday. Everyone has their own version of such things. Life is complicated. Our calendars gang up on us, and our busyness and stress overwhelm us bytimes. That’s life. My little resolutions don’t matter less today just because I didn’t keep a clean sheet for the whole year. I’ll just take that deep breath that I’m always prescribing and in my ‘examen’ resolve to do a little better tomorrow. How about you?
Shalom, Rev. Larry