“Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation…For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”
Philippians 4:11-13 NLT
There are three important aspects in preparing for the evening Examen. I’ve found it’s essential not to leave it too late. When I tried to make my Examen just before going to bed, I was too tired. So interrupt your evening early! Second, go somewhere with limited distractions. Finally, I try to enter the space with a positive, optimistic attitude, otherwise I battle my thoughts throughout, and can become cynical.
My first question is always, “How content was I today?” I reflect on these words of Paul about how contentment is a discipline I practise, not something that is done to or for me. Contentment has everything to do with my attitude and approach. There are things I’d rather not happen, yet where is God in such circumstances? In the morning I showed my irritation with those I worked. I recognised part of it arose from my not fully understanding everything in our process; my irritation was an expression of my sense of powerlessness. All I had to do was to ask for some further explanation, yet I didn’t.
As I ask my first question, “How content was I today?” I explore why I was/was not content, and ask God to reveal my backstory. This is not for the purpose of being hard on myself but for learning.
So as I discern my contentment and acknowledge my irritation, I ask God how to proceed. Is there any action I need to take? In this case, yes, apologise to my business partner for my behaviour. I also reflect upon why I felt inner defensiveness through my lack of understanding. In this way I learn more about myself and can consider practical steps to strengthen this fault line in my character. Self-awareness always precedes effective behavioural change.
Set aside ten minutes, approach the time positively and ask yourself, “How content was I today?”
Heavenly Father, please teach me the secret of contentment.