By David Lyons
I watched the temperature gauge rise as our van climbed a long hill in New Mexico. Before long we were sitting beside the road with steam rolling out from under the hood. Our cooling system had failed under pressure. The stresses of life can often lead our souls to boil over, too. And when that happens, we know that something is wrong.
International President Emeritus Jerry White once told a group of Navigator leaders that a key requirement for his job was to run with a cool engine. His words struck a longing in my heart. God seems to be changing me because recently my wife said to a friend, “I’ve never seen David under more pressure and yet more at peace.” There must be a God in heaven!
One of the things that God has been using to sustain me under pressure is The Daily Examen, an ancient spiritual discipline promoted by Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. Jesuits were called to live out their calling in busy professional settings rather than in cloistered monasteries. But I was doubtful that something so ancient could be useful to me in my fast-moving world. I was surprised.
The Daily Examen is much like the “quiet time” which is so familiar to Navigators. It was originally designed as a routine for ending the day, but I do it as part of my morning quiet time. It’s this simple:
Become aware of God’s presence.
Review the day with gratitude.
Pay attention to your emotions.
Choose one feature of the day and pray through it.
Look toward tomorrow.
Here’s a closer look at each step:
First, I find it refreshing to walk through the previous day in the company of the Holy Spirit, looking for God’s presence and movements. This wakes me up spiritually for the new day ahead.
Then, reviewing the day with gratitude often changes the weather in my soul. Recently I woke up feeling grumpy over how some of my colleagues had been pressing me to do something a certain way. But as I reviewed the day with gratitude, I realized that God was actually using them to do my work for me! My whole attitude changed. This type of gratitude is also crucial to one’s character. Through the years I’ve noticed that those I most admire are marked by thankfulness. I marvel at how this discipline gives me eyes to see things from God’s perspective.
Third, I take stock of my emotions. Emotional intelligence is not a natural strength for me. I’m often unaware of what I am feeling. Yet emotions can signal the movements of God’s Spirit, if we are paying attention. So I pause and reflect on what I had been feeling through the day and why. Just this morning I reflected on why I had felt irritated with my wife last night, and God showed me how I habitually slide into self-centeredness late in the day.
Fourth, I pick one element of the day to pray about. I am easily overwhelmed by long prayer lists. But I find it refreshing to choose one feature of the day and pray through it. As I do, God takes a burden off my shoulders and often shows me what He wants me to do next. This can launch me into praying through other things on my prayer list eagerly rather than under compulsion.
Finally, I look toward the new day ahead, seeking God’s specific guidance. This is a wellspring of life for me. There are so many things I could and “should” do on any given day. But receiving specific guidance from the Lord enables me to move through the day with an assurance that I’m focused on what He has in mind for me.
That helps me to run with a cool engine.