For the last fifteen years, my husband and I have set aside time each January to review the previous twelve months and anticipate the future year in the form of writing a Letter to God. In many ways, this practice is like an annual spiritual check-up. In what follows, I will introduce you to the exercise. (You can read more about it here, in this essay I wrote for the 1/4/23 Gloucester Daily Times.) This practice has been adapted from the work of Vinita Wright Hampton. You are encouraged to write your responses or contemplate in silence.
Depending on your own spiritual understanding, you can do this practice as a Letter to God, the Universe or Yourself. At the end of this examen, you may address an envelope to yourself. Then, in a year’s time it can be re-read before writing your next Letter to God.
Let us pray:
Loving God, we are grateful to be your children, rooted and grounded in your love.
Open our minds to review the year that has passed
from a spiritual perspective—with wisdom and insight.
Help us to become aware of patterns of thinking that serve and do not serve us,
those with whom we share our lives, and the world.
May we recognize the blessings we have received in the previous year. Amen.
Consider what you are grateful for from the last year… When did you experience the gifts of loving relationship… of joy… of wonder… and of awe? When did you experience a sense of God’s grace and presence?
Take a moment within the quiet of your heart to thank God for the blessings in your life last year.
Recognizing that there is much we can learn about ourselves and our relationships with and others and with God through our feelings, think over the year again, and notice your emotional reactions. When were you happiest? Most upset? What memories speak most loudly to you? What events, conversations, relationships, or activities bring up the most emotion now, as you remember them?
Ask God to be with you as you dwell with these emotions and memories, whether they are pleasant, disturbing, or both. We invite God to help us understand why we feel as we do, especially when we are upset.
A SIGNIFICANT CHALLENGE
Now consider one situation from 2022 that was especially challenging for you. What about it weighs most heavily on your heart? How do you feel about the person or people involved, if there are any… Invite God to draw close as you reflect on the situation and the people involved. What healing is needed?
Take a moment to surrender to God anything from last year that weighs on you in mind, body and spirit. For the next minute visualize God’s spirit bringing the healing that is needed.
Some of what will happen in the year ahead is scripted. Much is not. imagine that it is a year from now, January 1, 2024. What blessings do you hope you will celebrate in a year? What do you hope to give? What do you hope to witness? What do you hope to receive?
In silence, ask God for the grace to co-create a year that leads to the highest good for you, those you love, and our world.
As we end this time of reflection and prayer, take a minute to thank God for the blessings in your life, the challenges that lead to your growth, and holy possibilities for the future.