Where I serve, it’s annual meeting season, so a flurry of reports is being compiled in preparation for the one meeting the government mandates the church to have every year. (This is true of most churches, except those that may be run by a board of directors instead of one of the more common forms of church polity.) I don’t know many people who are big fans of meetings, but one thing the preparation for an annual congregational meeting does is cause one to pause and look back on the year that has passed.
The ancient practice of the examination of conscience and consciousness, made popular by Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) is normally seen as a daily spiritual discipline, but it can also be a monthly practice, or even an annual practice. The process of compiling annual reports can be harnessed as a form of spiritual discipline, whereby we think back on the year and see where God has been at work, and how aware we have been of that activity.
Let me encourage you to take some time, maybe this weekend, to just sit quietly before God and think back on 2016. It may have been the best year ever for you, or it may have been your version of the annus horribilis. For most of us, it was probably somewhere in between. But by sitting quietly and reviewing the year, we can look for those areas where God was noticeably present and obviously at work. We can rejoice in those gifts of presence and activity.
Or, if we have not been able to see God at work, we can ask why we were not sufficiently attentive to God’s presence. Thus, this examination becomes more than a “year in review”; it becomes a way of deepening our faith, of doing a gut check on our walk with the Lord.
Why not take time this weekend to take a look back? Maybe you’ll see God’s fingerprints all over everything – such cause for rejoicing! Or maybe you’ll be like Jacob at Bethel, who upon waking from his dream said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” (Genesis 28.16b, NLT).