The Examined Life— by James Howell

The following is a helpful post by James Howell, my friend and fellow Um minister, who pastors at Myers Park UMC.

The Examined Life

Socrates was right: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” The depressing vanity of our culture is that we just seem to live thoughtlessly, bouncing from one experience to the next, too busy to stop and wonder about the Why of it all.

Everything we read about Socrates indicates that (1) he was exceedingly wise, and that (2) he almost never explained the right answers to people; he asked questions, and then more questions. Sounds like Jesus, actually: the spiritual life isn’t having all the answers, but asking good questions – the right questions.

St. Ignatius devised a daily Examen, questions you ask yourself throughout the day: What am I grateful for? Where do I need light? Can I find God? Do I trust God is with me, even and especially when I fail? What might I avoid? A good question to focus on this week could be: can I recall how God was present? and how the Spirit guided me?

John Wesley required the early Methodists to ask these questions every day: Can I be trusted? Am I a slave to dress, work or habits? Am I self-pitying? Did the Bible live in me today? Do I pray about the money I spend? Am I critical, irritable, touchy? Is Christ real to me? Am I creating the impression that I am better than I really am?

Jot down a few questions that speak to you, and challenge you to stretch. Stop mid-morning, after lunch, on afternoon break, and before bedtime, and examine your life.

A prayer: “Lord, ask me hard questions. I may not have any answers. I may have even more questions. I trust that when You and I ask each other about things that matter, we will grow closer, and I might get in sync with Your vision for my life.”


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