Peaks and Pits

Back in my youth ministry days I developed a tradition of including within each youth group gathering something that we called “Peaks and Pits.”  Each week we would go around the room and each person would share their peak – their high point of the last week; and then their pit – the worst moments of the past few days.  I discovered it was a great way of building community.  It invited the young people to share with their peers, in a safe and loving environment, what was happening in their lives so that we could enter into both their joy and their pain.  It allowed us to care for one another in a rather profound way.   “Weep with those who weep, rejoice with those who rejoice,” as the Apostle Paul put it.

I have to confess that this idea wasn’t original with me.  In fact, this exercise is commonly known as the Prayer of Examen and is typically credited to St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), who encouraged fellow followers to engage in the practice for developing a deeper level of spiritual sensitivity and for recognizing the presence of God throughout the day.

In its most basic form, this practice is simply looking back over the past day (or week or month, season or year), the big and small aspects and asking yourself, in an intentional and prayerful manner, two simple questions:

For what moment today am I most grateful? 

For what moment today am I least grateful?

There are other ways to ask the same questions: When did I feel most alive today? When did I feel life draining out of me? / When was I happiest today? When was I saddest? / When did I feel closest to God? When did I feel most disconnected from God?

As a family, we have incorporated this practice into our evening dinnertime.  As we are eating, we go around the table and share our ‘peaks and pits.’  It has become an important family ritual, and one of the great ways that we stay connected, especially as blended family.  The other night, after a rather long and stressful day, as we sat down for dinner, said a little prayer and started digging in, Kelli rather forcefully put her hands down on the table – startling the rest of us – and she said, “THIS!  This is my peak!  All of us here around this table.  This is what I’m most thankful for today.”  It was a moment of grace and gratitude.

During this season of Lent, we have been inviting one another to wake up and make space in our hearts for that which is holy; to remember that each moment is sacred, that each day of the journey holds the possibility for experiencing God’s abundant mercy. 

What about you?  What has been your peak in the last 24 hours?  What’s been your pit?  Where, in the last couple of weeks, have you felt most alive?  In what moment did you feel life draining out of you?  When did you feel closest to God?

As we open our hearts to all that is around us, may we discover that God is present in all of it, and may we discover moments of sacred grace everywhere we go, in nearly everything we do.