You think you know yourself, and why wouldn’t you think that? It is supposed to be one of the basics of existence (“I think therefore I am.”)
And yet, there are times when you react so illogically, so out of sync with who you’d like to be, that it seems that maybe, JUST maybe, that’s not so true.
Be careful with how certain you are about who you are. Your struggle—often with things that have been with you for decades, all the way back to your childhood—indicates that maybe, just maybe, you are more of a mystery to yourself than you think.
Slow down, and think; contemplate; wait upon the revelation of yourself.
When you receive it, act accordingly: make an amends, be grateful, take action, celebrate.
You constantly lean towards the temptation to think that God is waiting until you are somehow different to work through you and in you.
There seems to be something inherently human in this thought: that you need to be better than you are RIGHT NOW in order to experience the transcendent, to receive and give grace, to do the work of God in the world.
That’s simply not true.
The life that God wants to use is the life you have RIGHT NOW. Wherever you are at.
YOUR thoughts (however scrambled).
YOUR gifts (however odd or marginal).
YOUR resources (however limited).
YOUR area of influence (however far from “sacred”.)
Part of Jesus Christ’s life and teaching was dedicated to show people that they no longer needed a “Temple”: God’s presence was available ANYWHERE, ANYTIME.
It’s odd that we still want to think of God as present “OUT THERE”.
He is right here, right now, and all He is asking is what will you do in response.
Start with what you’ve been given. In all your struggles, and in all your limitations. That’s all He asks.
It is actually quite easy to confuse “faith” with any number of alternatives.
For instance, you have often in the past sought out new perspectives on the practice of faith: from church history, to different faith traditions, to new perspectives on prayer and practice.
These are actually GOOD things: they have expanded your horizons, and definitely “born fruit” in your life.
But it’s important to monitor that the drive for the new and innovative in your life does not come to pass for a vital faith.
Think of it in terms of dependence: there is a desperation in faith, a sort of “I cannot live without this.”
There is also a tendency for “faith” to put and keep you in a healthy subordinate position.
Curiosity can elevate you, and make you believe that you are somehow better than others, or less in need of Help than you might think.
Though the difference is subtle, monitor the line between faith and curiosity as much as you can.
There are voices in your life that try to tell you the direction in which your life should head. Not necessarily in terms of vocation and call, but in terms of visible and tangible markers of success.
Be wary of those voices.
Success is culturally-determined, and in light of the call to “take up your cross”, evaluations that are determined by “up-and-to-the-right” mobility will always be suspect.
It is always a temptation to assume that you will always grow in influence and visibility, but that simply does not have to be the case.
(It is also not necessarily wrong to DESIRE more influence and visibility, but you should always be quick to acknowledge that you have no control over the results of your efforts, nor does success by the world’s standards equate to Kingdom success.)
Because of Jesus’ teaching on the cross (“take it up…”) AND the fact that he models the teaching so completely changes the very nature of what success looks like.
Do not be afraid of “downward mobility” in terms of what the world and the culture expects from you. Simply be faithful to the vocation and inner voice that God has called you to, and trust Him with the “daily bread” and provision that will allow you to live it out.
You are surrounded by a potentially overwhelming number of people and situations that can consume your attention and focus.
As a member of a fatih community, many people come up to you and ask how they can pray for you, but when you respond it is very easy to describe the situation or person that is affecting you, rather than how you, yourself, need prayer.
On one hand, there is nothing wrong this response: you begin in a sovereign Power that cares about the world and is involved in it. However, on the other hand, when you focus too much on how you can be praying for OTHER people and situations, it may be because you are subtlely trying to CONTROL others, rather than focusing on what God might be wanting to bring about in YOUR heart and life through the situation.
When people offer to pray for you, before you answer, do the more difficult work of contemplating how the situation or person is affecting YOU. Think about how God may be wanting to change YOU through the situation.
Consider the fact that God is ALREADY infinitely more invested in that situation and person than you could ever be, and respond to the invitation to TRUST God.
It certainly seems like knowing yourself—your motives, thoughts and your feelings—should be second nature, a given.
But mostly it isn’t. You find it difficult to REALLY know what’s going on inside you, and instead you gauge your feelings on your perception of other people’s feelings. In addition, you are aware that there are tapes playing inside your mind and heart; tapes that tell stories of painful and difficult pieces of your childhood.
These two challenges combine with other issues you have to make inhabiting your own heart and feelings a challenge for you. It’s easier for you to REACT to others than to name and own your own opinions and state of mind/heart.
But it does not need to be this way.
God has given you a voice, and a heart, and emotions and feelings.
You matter: your particular perspective, wants and desires, and even hurts are unique to you, and were given to the world by God in order to bring about His Kingdom in you and in the world.
It is difficult to hear the voice of your own heart, but it IS possible. It just requires silencing the noise—of the external world, of your own life—and learning to listen to God as He speaks quietly in and through your own soul.
Learn the way, and walk in it, and learn to know yourself.
Developing a habit of gratitude—literally writing down things you’re grateful for each day—is a key spiritual practice, but like many healthy practices it is tempting to abandon it. You can easily fool yourself into thinking that it’s not “doing” anything, or not affecting you.
But gratitude should be like breathing, in the sense that it should be natural to you, a part of your moment-to-moment existence. As you become more grateful, you are able to see that everything (and every person and situation) around you is a gift, an opportunity for celebration or for growth and learning. Your eyes open up to find goodness and joy in the smallest of circumstances, and even occasionally in the most painful of circumstances.
Ultimately, gratitude cultivates humility—a sense of selflessness, a freedom to not have to consider yourself in the world.
So keep it up; do not abandon it.
(BTW, a “practice” of gratitude can be as simple as writing down three things you are grateful for each day.)