September 11, 2019 • Life for Leaders
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
Ephesians 5:15 urges us to “Be very careful, then, how you live.” As I explained previously, this sentence could be translated more literally: “Examine carefully how you are walking.” This exhortation encourages us to pay close attention to how we’re living, rather than walking through life with our eyes closed—so to speak. One way to examine our lives involves stopping for a time to think about how we’re living. In yesterday’s devotion I suggested that putting down our tech will help us pause so we might reflect.
Today, I want to share another practical way for us to do what Ephesians 5:15 commends. It’s really quite simple: Set aside time each day to take stock of your life. This could be part of your morning ritual, perhaps connected to your regular devotional time. I know some people who do this at midday (though I don’t think this would work for me in my current season of life). You might find it helpful to reflect on your day in the evening before you go to bed. If you can establish a regular discipline of daily reflection, whatever your particular practice might be, you’ll be able to follow the counsel of Ephesians 5:15.
My wife, Linda, reflects on her day with the help of a spiritual guide called the Examen. This technique of prayerful examination was created by St. Ignatius of Loyola in the 16th century. It is practiced by Christians throughout the world today. There are different versions of the Examen, one of which goes as follows:
As you sit quietly—
- Recognize God’s presence with you;
- Give thanks for the gifts of the day;
- Ask the Spirit to help you reflect upon your day;
- Review your day honestly, being aware not just of your actions, but also your motives, attitudes, and feelings;
- Speak openly with Jesus about your day, confessing where you went astray, asking for his help, wisdom, and grace for tomorrow.
(You can find a slightly different version of the Examen in FULLERstudio. My colleagues at the Studio have created a marvelous video introduction to the Examen, as well as an app version. You can learn more here.)
Linda has been practicing the Examen at night for several years. It has deepened her faith and invigorated her walk with Christ. You might think that her example would help me to do the same. It has, to an extent. But, honestly, I find it more intuitive to spend time with the Lord in the morning, rather than the evening. Would that I could learn to do both regularly!
What matters most, however, isn’t the adoption of one particular form of daily, prayerful self-examination. Rather, in a way that fits our unique personality and situation, we can learn to pause each day so that, with God’s help, we might examine our lives carefully.
Something to Think About:
What helps you to look carefully at how you are living?
Do you have a daily practice of reflecting on your life?
If so, what helps you to maintain this practice?
If not, is this something that you would like?
Something to Do:
If you have not already done so, think about how you might spend time each day prayerfully examining your life. Make a plan to do so each day for a week. Share your plan with someone who can encourage you and hold you accountable.
Gracious God, you call us to examine carefully how we live. This is indeed an imperative, something we should do because you have told us to. But it is also a gracious invitation, an opportunity to live more intentionally, with greater meaning, joy, and gratitude.
Help me, Lord, to pay attention to how I’m living on a regular basis. By your grace, I ask for the discipline to do this each day. Help me to stop long enough to allow you to help me see my life from your perspective. I thank you in advance for your grace in this matter. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project:
How Christians Can Experience Deeper Rest
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.