If you grew up in a certain time period in a certain branch of evangelicalism, a lot of your early spiritual formation may have come by way of animated vegetables. I was in a strange gap when VeggieTales was first produced: a little too old to watch them, but way too young to have kids who would watch them. So, I watched them anyway, introduced to the show by one of my grad school friends. Once my own kids came along, we bought each new DVD as soon as it was released. I somehow felt less guilty about TV time if it was remotely educational or had some other value.
One of my favorite songs was sung by Junior Asparagus, as he reviewed his day, recounting the good, the bad, and the ugly. He reminds himself over and over again that God’s love was with him all throughout the day. Something about the simple song with deep truth caught me as my kids watched the DVD, and I found myself skipping back to listen to it over again. “Your love was with me all throughout the day.”
Fast forward to this spring when my counselor suggested that one way to help me address my anxiety was to spend time daily thinking through what God was doing, and how I responded to His work in my life. She mentioned something called the Ignatian Examen. Growing up evangelical, I don’t know much of anything about saints, so I had to look St. Ignatius up online when I got home. His prayer, when I read it, reminded me of Junior Asparagus. I’ve started to incorporate it into my daily practice, and it’s been a help to me as I seek to live thoughtfully and prayerfully in God’s presence.
Although there are several different versions of the Examen, most start with asking the Holy Spirit for guidance to see my day through God’s eyes, not only my own. I then review my day, noting with gratitude the gifts that God has given me throughout the day. I then “face my shortcomings,” recognizing and repenting of my sin, and trying to understand the mistakes I’ve made and the difficulties I am facing. I then look to what is coming in the day ahead, thinking about where I think I will need God’s help, and planning how to seek it out.
Because Junior Asparagus’s refrain of “Your love was with me all throughout my day” echoes in my ears as I work through the examen, this approach to thinking about my day helps me move away from the frequent anxiety and stress that seem to be my more typical way of thinking about all the tasks I have left to complete, or the ways I have not measured up. Instead, I am reminded of one of the deepest truths I know: God made me, he knows me, and he loves me.