I’m finding incredible insight as I begin to lead out the work that I’ve been working through, praying about and preparing for more than six months. Inspired by the book Deepening Your Effectiveness, I’m looking more deeply at a meaningful definition of discipleship and looking more intently at how I can order the life of this congregation to better move people toward deeper experiences and expressions of God’s grace. Using the concept of “core principles” as those experiences and practices that shape our life with Christ more completely, I’m in the midst of introducing these principles and practices through worship and a companion class. This week I’m on the third of the seven principles.
The third principle is “Fully formed disciples of Jesus are committed to living incarnationally according to the example of Christ.” As a way of teaching this concept and drawing people into a deeper understanding of our life with Christ I’m using the image of the Christ of the Maryknoll and Ignatius of Loyola’s Examen. Rooted in John 1, I’m exploring with the congregation the truth of the incarnation. Out of this reclamation and deeper understanding of the incarnation, I’m seeking a deeper understanding of why incarnation matters to modern disciples and how it can be an integral part of our life of faith.
I’m being drawn into a deeper understanding of the Examen. I’ve spent time practicing the Examen; it was one of the more compelling practices that I learned through the Two Year Academy. At the risk of being too hard on myself, my recollection of how I approached the Examen was more from the standpoint of a self-guided tour. I know that I did it prayerfully. I did try and explore the deeper and more difficult elements of my life and practice. At the end, it was still self-led. I’m coming to understand that the Examen needs to be different. It needs to be Christ led.
This is a challenging concept. It could be difficult to do a true self-led Examen, but it could smack of masochism. Alternately, it would be all too easy to gloss over important things that we would need to deal with. However, to give the reins of the journey over to Christ, to have a Christ-led Examen is all together different. It is truly an exercise in living without a net when we let Christ guide us through the reflection of our day, our action (inaction) and our faithfulness. Yet this is absolutely vital to growing into a deeper relationship with Christ. The truly Christ-led Examen is made possible through incarnation.
Incarnation is the expression of faith that bears witness to the depth to which God is present in Christ. When John speaks of the Word became flesh and dwelled among us, he bears witness to a depth and intimacy of God’s presence in Christ. When through faith Christ abides with us and we with Christ, we have before us the possibility of an indwelling experience with Christ that approximates incarnation. When we engage in a Christ-led Examen, Christ leads not from outside us, but from ever more deeply within.
As we engage in the Examen the door is opened to the experience of God’s transforming grace from the inside out. As I have sought to live more deeply into my faith and relationship with Christ, I’ve come to realize that there are stubborn, persistent and deep seated attitudes that are getting in the way of what I seek. What God is revealing to me is that the answers and the healing I seek lay in the practice of the Examen. So, tonight I reenter into the Examen. This time…I let Christ take the wheel.