Examen on Encouragement

Place yourself in the presence of the Lord and pray for enlightenment. Relax. Breathe deeply. Run quickly over the past few hours or days, allowing your real feelings to surface about the events that have been part of your life, the feelings you’ve buried so that you could make it through the day.

Pay attention to the way in which the Lord has been present to you. Where has the Lord sent his Spirit to encourage you? Where have you met the Lord when you felt afraid … misunderstood … tempted … relieved … happy? Turn to the Lord with gratitude.

Choose one incident or reaction that stands out particularly for you at this time and which is still not settled for you. Recall to mind the details of the incident and its context, the people involved, and how you feel about it.

Read in the Bible The Woman Caught in Adultery (John 8:1-11)

Allow Christ to encourage you in living the life he has planned for you with love.

Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him.

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, sir.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.’ (John 8:1-11)

This Gospel passage is a familiar one. The woman has been caught in adultery. Her sin is real, and it carries great consequences for her, for her family, and for her relationship with God. She finds herself literally facing death because of what she has done, without any hope of redemption.

Then Jesus enters. He breaks through the darkness of the condemnation that the woman faces and shines a light of love. God looks at her with complete love, a love that she never knew existed. Christ encourages the woman caught in adultery to live a life free of sin, knowing that it is truly possible through the gift of his grace.

Read through the passage again, imagining yourself in the passage. Perhaps you are the woman or just a quiet bystander. Allow yourself to be surprised by how the Lord breaks through the crowd’s condemnation with his words of strength and encouragement.

God does not give empty encouragement. This woman has been defined by her sin, but Christ restores her dignity as one of his children, knowing that she can live a beautiful life of love. He looks at you with this same love. As you reflect upon the incident that you chose for your examen, Jesus looks at you and speaks words to encourage you to live a life full of hope and grace. What would it be like to believe his words of encouragement?

As you reflect upon the incident you chose for your examen, remember that the Christian life is not meant to be lived alone. One of the best ways to learn how to live in relationships is by seeing how Jesus interacts with people. How could words of encouragement help to welcome Christ’s presence in your life?

God’s great love for you is made manifest in the experiences of your life. As you make this examen, the Lord is right now moving your heart toward the Lord’s encouragement.

Spend some time talking over with the Lord what you are learning and experiencing. With simplicity express your sorrow for any discouragement in your life and your gratitude for any movements you sense toward greater encouragement through God’s grace.

Identify one step toward becoming a more encouraging person that you want to take going forward, a step that is actually possible for you. Pray for the grace to be a more encouraging person.

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