Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Invigilation as Spiritual Discipline?

All three of my children have participated in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme in high school. As part of my responsibilities as a parent volunteer, I have spent a number of hours over the years invigilating. (Go head and look it up!)

This afternoon I was one of two invigilators for Spanish examinations. Although I have always put my cell phone away during the exams I've been assigned to oversee, this time the program coordinator specifically requested that we do so. I'm sure she made the request so that we could more effectively fulfill our responsibility — which literally, from the Latin verb vigilare, was "to stay awake."

What this meant is that I had over two hours during which I did almost nothing besides stand or sit or pace in a quiet room with only my thoughts to keep me company.

We live in an age when it's nearly impossible to find anyone waiting in line at the grocery store or sitting in a doctor's waiting room without a smart phone to occupy their hands and minds. I even find myself reaching for my iPhone at stop lights. Checking text messages and email might be productive use of our time, and the Kindle app can both inform and entertain. But just how beneficial is "just one more game" of Threes or mindless scrolling through Facebook?

Forced to "be still" (Psalm 46:10) this afternoon, I first prayed for each of the test-takers — that they would be able to do their best, that they would take the opportunity seriously, and that they would each be a contributor to a better world as they grow into adults. For a brief time, I tried to clear my mind and focus on my breathing, but mostly I let my mind wander through my current goals and hopes and desires — books I want to read, trips I'd like to take, words I'd like to write. I also counted the weeks between my son's graduation and his entrance to the university and considered what I'd like his summer break to be.

A list-maker and calendar-keeper by nature, I rarely just think about things without writing them down. I'm a big believer in the power of records, including journaling about impressions from the Holy Spirit. But today — as during my prior experiences as an invigilator — I felt the benefits of simply pondering in the stillness and being open to personal revelation.

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