A Decade of Spiritual Formation

Reflection is such a valuable practice, for in doing so with God we can see things previously hidden or be reminded of things forgotten. It is profound to trace the work of God’s love in one’s life. It is a way to savor what he has been accomplishing and often to renew one’s intentions. If you liken it to looking through a photo book with your mother, or spouse, or child and together relish the memories caught within the pictures, you get a sense of the connection and benefit of such a practice. I like to reflect often for just this reason—it bonds me with my Father. So, this last month I took the opportunity to reflect on my spiritual formation over the previous decade. I wrote about it at where I contribute regularly. It begins:

As 2010 opened, I had a 3-year-old, 2-year-old, and 3-month-old. Pouring myself into these young lives kept me so busy I scarcely noticed the new decade. I remember aching for 2020 when I’d have more independent kids. Motherhood has been the crucible within which I’ve been ground finer and made more malleable. My lessons were learned in the cloister of the bathroom, the blackness of midnight wakings, the raucousness of unfettered kid-fun, the rhythm of school years, and the pervading terrifying honor of showing these little ones how life is done well.

The first five years birthed in me a desperation to hold on to myself and God because caring for these kids felt consuming. So I clung to what I knew—go to church, study (at least read) the Bible, and praying lots of “help me” prayers—but my spirit floundered. My irritability and discouragement were evidence.

Read on for five things that did work in those first five desperate years and five more from the following five years at 

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Where was God in 2017?

Without reflection we could see nothing. Our world would be void of colour and shape.  We depend on the reflection of light off of objects to bring them into our awareness, granting them their hue and bend. All things of substance remain hidden.

This necessary property of reflection that brings substance into life and contours our world physically, can be applied to the spirit as well. Our spirits need reflection to bring into view the substance that lies there.

Light shines on the world of our spirits but without reflection we shall never see it. It is imperative to reflect in order to bring into focus and shape that which the Light is illuminating. What is the Lord bringing into high relief in your life? Where are the shadows and the bright edges? Where is He in the midst of gray fog and what might He be showing you there – His touch?

Pursuing Jesus’ presence in reflection, allowing Him to draw into substance His presence in your past moments, be they a lifetime’s or a day’s, is a rich practice for your spirit. There are times we are aware of His presence and working at the moment, but so much of the time we are unaware of it and reflection, under His guidance, unmasks that which was lost in the moments before. At times, it is like watching a city on a distant horizon grow into vast view – naught was there to your vision before, but now you behold a great, solid, hope.

So, in these few days as we turn from an old year to a new, look not only forward. Allow the mirror embedded in this turning to have full view before you look through the window into next year.

There is an aged practice, called the Prayer of Examen, that is especially helpful in allowing the Lord’s light shine in one’s reflections. Originally implemented as a daily practice (which I encourage) it can also be used as a weekly, monthly, or yearly practice.

Rather than our reflection simply be a recounting of the year, we look at it under His guidance of our memories allowing Him to bring to light those things He wishes to show us. Invariably, whatever He shows You is shown in order to illuminate His presence in your life.

Below, you will find my paraphrase of the practice, fitted for a year’s consideration.

Because this is a yearly examen, set aside 20 minutes to an hour to be in a quiet, undisturbed place. A daily examen is usually shorter. Turn off any devices that might distract, and get comfortable. Some like to take a walk in nature, others sit with a candle lit, others like the anonymity of being in a library. It is helpful to take notes, especially for the next year’s examen when you can look back at this year’s and be reminded of all He has been to you during this year!

A Yearly Examen

Become aware of God’s presence. Relax, let tensions drift away, breathe deeply. Remember that God is present and is looking at you with love. He is glad that you are here now, regardless of anything you have done or not done before. Spend some minutes simply enjoying this fact. If your mind wanders, gently, without condemning yourself, come back to God who is still here loving you.

Ask God to reflect on your year with gratitude. Allow the year to gently surface and focus on the things you are grateful for. Don’t choose what to be grateful for, but allow God to bring clarity to what emerges. Take note of the joys and gifts He’s given you throughout the year. He may bring very small things to mind, these are gifts of His in the details. Give thanks!

Ask God to show you His presence in your year. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you particular times that He was present, whether in a situation, in another person or in your internal experience. Allow Him to bring to mind these things, then ask Him to show how He was present. Take note of any themes or patterns He shows you, or things that stand out to you.

Take note of your emotions. Recognize your emotions regarding these things the Holy Spirit is showing you. God’s presence is in our emotions too. What is God saying through these feelings? He may show you where you fell short, allow him to speak life into you. He may show you pain, allow him to bring healing. He may show you exhilaration, allow him to be glorified. There are a multitude of ways that He is present to you in your emotions, let him in to lead.

Ask God to show you your need. Allow God to lead you in identifying your needs. Ask Him to fulfill these needs and look forward with hope and trust that He knows them and wishes to provide for you.

From these reflections pray for next year. You may have something arise from your reflections that you wish to pray over for the coming year – a particular situation, a need, a desire for growth or more experience of God. Again pay attention to your feelings regarding the upcoming year. Allow your reflections and feelings shape your prayer for the coming year.

Our Father, beloved Lord, and welcomed Counselor – Great thanks we give you for your ever presence and your willingness to show yourself in our lives. It is so reassuring to meet you in our reflections and to look forward knowing you will be there too. Thank you for this time, thank you for 2017. Thank you for all that you have shown us. Where we are still tender and smarting, bring your balm and grace. Where we are invigorated and hopeful, flow your direction and guidance. Lead us into this new year after having brought the old into relief. May this year be filled with your presence and glory. Amen.

Posted by k2mulder in Spiritual Formation, 0 comments