The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.
-1 Samuel 16:7
Jesus looked at him and loved him.
Yesterday I nearly skipped breakfast and needed to grab a banana as I headed to work. I looked on the counter and the only option I had was one that appeared, shall we say, “undesirable.” The peel had dark spots, the stem was dried up. This one had long ago bid farewell to dreams of starring in a Chiquita commercial. The glory days were past, and brown was the color of the moment. My first thought was to send that guy right to the compost bucket. But I decided to check inside just to make sure.
Upon a second look, I saw that the inside of the banana was beautiful! Interestingly, the outside peel had not been a sign of how ruined the inside was… and I nearly missed breakfast because of it. So I did what millions of millennial hipsters do every day: I took pictures of my food. Confession: I am neither a millennial nor a hipster. But I did sense a Jesus metaphor coming on.
It’s a simple, overplayed idea, right? We’ve got these famous sayings...
Don’t judge a book by its cover.
Looks can be deceiving.
Don’t toss a banana because of its peel... seems like it is also destined for greatness.
At first glance, this message seems almost juvenile in how obvious it is. Yet theory and practice are not the same. The truth is that I’ve meet very few people who truly have the capability to go beyond exteriors and offer inherent value to a person. We need Jesus to teach us how to do that over and over again.
It’s tempting to use first impressions of someone in order to pass judgment.
It’s tempting to use limited knowledge about someone's past to make assumptions about their future.
It’s tempting to take someone’s ugly moments and make it the totality of their character.
We have this human inclination toward competition over cooperation. And we also have a need for control that tempts us to deal always in absolutes, rather than layers. But Jesus teaches us a better way. He teaches us compassion and engagement. He teaches us to make gracious assumptions. And he releases us from the responsibility of passing judgement. This example does not just transform how we see others. It’s changes how we see ourselves.
So how do we achieve that heart of God for others?
We have to receive the heart of God for us.
Frequently, our inability to practice value within others is rooted in our personal inability to be loved as we are. Our experience of God’s grace has been rather anemic, so we communicate our disease to others.
Listen friends. Stop singing about God’s grace being enough. Start actually letting God’s grace be enough. Start welcoming God’s love in fullness. Start seeing yourself as fearfully and wonderfully made, worthy of love and redemption. Start seeing yourself as created in God’s image. You are beautiful despite your failures. You are worth dying for.
And the only way to come to grips with that is to sit with Jesus until the love sinks in.
When you are tempted to assume rottenness in yourself or another this week, may you be reminded that God sees beneath the hurts and failures to the core of who a person is-- and loves them. Yes, God’s image in us can become corroded and marred. Sometimes we lift back the peel and what we see is mushy fruit. But here’s where the metaphor reaches its limit. Not only does God look at the heart, but even the heart reveals pride, greed, and ugliness… God loves us anyway and is powerful to transform. So even the rotten fruit in our world isn’t beyond restoration in God’s kingdom. Today is a good day to start living like that’s true.
Jesus, help me receive your grace in a way that really changes things.
**If you want to take the metaphor farther, apparently you can shop for ugly produce here.
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?”
-Jesus (Matthew 26:40)
Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn.
-Jesus (Mark 13:35)
Let’s keep thinking about the new year, since we’re only a week in. Many of you chose to stay awake until midnight last Tuesday to welcome in the new year. I don’t want to sound like a party pooper, but I think it’s been about (insert children’s ages) years since my wife and I stayed up. We party hard until about 9:00 or so and then it’s just not worth the effort. I’ll wish you happy new year in the morning. Stop judging me.
But for those of you who make the effort, bravo! It got me thinking.
A new year is a good time to invite God to help us stay awake. It’s so easy to fall alseep, to forget what matters, and to miss out on the beauty and joy of living in God’s kingdom. Interestingly, our society is experiencing an awakening of sorts. People are getting “woke” to the reality of racial bias in our country, and to the uncomfortably reality of sexism and the epidemic of sexual assault. People are noticing that we’re losing relationships because of our technology addiction. People are starting to notice that our consumption habits are not sustainable. It’s hopeful. Staying awake can be really good, especially when it’s Jesus that’s asking us to.
As we consider staying awake this year, I can think of three areas where we don’t want to fall asleep:
- God is at work all around us and we don’t want to miss it.
My eyes over the past two years have opened up so much more. Everything around us an opportunity for growth. God is at work in all of it. Every conversation can make us more like Jesus. Every good and bad event can be shaping tools in our lives. Every sunset, every birdsong, every person, and every minute- all have something to reveal about God’s goodness if we slow down enough to take notice. But too often, we fall asleep to those moments and miss out.
Slow down enough to keep your eyes open, friends.
- People are hurting and we want to be aware of it.
As mentioned above, our world is full of heartache. We forget that each person in front of us carries a story with them, full of hurt, hope, joy and pain. It’s easy to assume that what we see is the totality of a person. But God tells that so much is going on inside each person. They are in need of active love, just like you and I. Let’s become alert to compassion as we listen to each other’s stories.
Slow down enough to keep your eyes open, friends.
- Habits that are damaging to us and others develop almost effortlessly.
Most poor choices start long before the worst moment. Many bad habits (speaking critically, giving in to lust, using food or technology to fill a deeper need) form without us even being aware that they’re forming in us. We fall asleep at the wheel and forget that Jesus has given us a spirit of power and self-discipline that leads to a truly good life. Jesus hasn’t just set us free forever- he’s given us his Spirit to move toward loving practices in this life as well. Now is as good a time as EVER to get intentional and lean into prayer and community encouragement.
Slow down enough to keep your eyes open, friends.
I want us to be awake this year to the many ways Jesus wants to shape us and use us. So if you stayed awake last week, let it be an ongoing image for you this year as Jesus gives you eyes to see and ears to hear. And if you were like me and fell asleep early on new year’s eve… well, we were just resting up...
It’s go time.
Jesus, keep me awake and alert so that my eyes can see you and my ears can hear you.
Delight in God's love for you this week- and love others well.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.....
-Apostle Paul (Ephesians 3:20)
I watched Mary Poppins Returns with my family yesterday at the theater. It had been 25 years since I had seen the original. But the memories came flooding back. The film was beautifully done. The children are constantly being opened up to a world bursting with new possibilities… and of course, they are told by the adults to get their heads out of the clouds. Even the kids aren’t really sure if what they are experiencing is real life or just their imaginations that Mary Poppins has so cleverly captured.
Until the end.
At the end, it’s difficult even for the adults to deny the wonder in the air. In fact, there is a moment when one parent exclaims, as he thinks back on his own memories from 20 years ago, that “It's all true! Every impossible thing we imagined with Mary Poppins. It all happened!"
And yet, as people are laughing, filled with wonder, and literally floating around holding onto balloons, the balloon lady looks at Mary Poppins….
“Of course, the grown ups will all forget by tomorrow.”
Mary Poppins looks back. She sighs….
“They always do."
They always forget to imagine. They always forget to look up. They always forget to wonder. And what is lost is so terribly, terribly important.
Maybe already, maybe tomorrow, or maybe later this week, you will move out of the brief time every year where you allow yourself to engage in the spirit of wonder…
Many of us have reflected on the amazing story of God entering humanity over the past weeks. Many of us have allowed ourselves to be filled with wonder at a star that pointed the way to Bethlehem. Our imaginations ran wild as we thought about the shepherds looking out and seeing angels bringing the first news, as they became guests of honor. We pictured, with wonder, a world where God came among his people and changed everything from that moment forward. We’ve lit candles in the dark. We’ve taken extra time for moments with family and friends. We’ve given away gifts in a spirit of generosity.
But tomorrow, we have a lot to do. It was fun, but we need to get back at it.
Maybe we need a new it to get back to. Maybe imagination is actually the thing we ought to get back to doing. Maybe tomorrow, we need to not forget.
The Jesus story is about imagination. It’s about believing Jesus when he promises us that another world is possible. It’s about joining in a story where blind people see, and the overlooked are given dignity. The Jesus story is a story where people are forgiven, and people forgive, and enemies are made into friends by being loved. It’s a story where everyone has enough, and where justice and equality happen. It’s a story where amazingly good things come out of Nazareth. It’s a story where dividing walls are destroyed. It’s a story where in a land of deep darkness, a light comes. It’s a story where death doesn’t win, and love is always the most powerful force.
Real talk: that takes one heck of an imagination. That takes wonder.
Don’t forget by tomorrow.
The Christian vision has always sounded foolish to people. It sounds impossible. But unless we believe with our whole hearts that the kingdom of God is possible, and is capable of transforming our world today through your and my tiny little acts of daily love…. well, unless we believe it’s possible, it won’t be.
But it is! A world like the one God longs to bring about is possible, as long as we don’t forget because we are acting too much like grown ups.
Paint a new picture for those around you this year. Imagine, even if it makes you look foolish. Keep the wonder in your eye, even if you feel like a grown up pretending to be a child. Because after all, we believe that Jesus loves us and Jesus is with us. If you’re foolish enough to believe that, you might just be foolish enough to join him in changing our world. Here’s to hoping we don’t forget.
Jesus, help us live with imagination today.
The Eastern Orthodox Tradition has a name for Mary. They call her Theotokos. It means, literally, "the God-bearer." Mary's special because she is the one who brings Jesus into the world. The one who brings the hope that turns it all around.
What a terrifying privilege.
Advent is when we prepare for Jesus' coming. But the terms have changed from that first Christmas. Now, we not only remember Mary, the beautiful theotokos, but we also prepare ourselves to be God-bearers. We join together to prepare and reflect on our own breathtaking privilege of bringing Jesus into the world.
As a church, LifePath prepares together by sharing our own stories. We are trying to practice the holy calling to bear God to one another. These simple stories have been put together as daily readings leading up to Christmas. Because of these readings, I will be putting my Thursday Together For Good reflections on pause until after Advent. If you are not a part of our church, I invite you to journey with us through these daily reflections (and if you are a part of our church, you already have been!).
You can download the pdf here:
This year we're telling stories about learning to celebrate.
I'd love for you to join us. We'll catch up again here after Christmas.
You are enough to be a God-bearer.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them.
God moves too slowly. Let’s admit it. It took the people of Israel 40 years in the desert to find the promised land. It (apparently) took Jesus 30 years of living before doing anything noteworthy except being born and then forgetting to head home from a road trip with his parents when he was a kid. Nobody ever talks about what Mary might have been thinking when Jesus was 28 and hadn’t made much of his life yet...
But eventually, the right time came. And it couldn’t have worked any other way. If love is patient, and God is Love, then I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that Jesus tends to walk slowly and deliberately in the Scriptures, rarely seeming to be in a hurry.
My whole family loves hiking. But I’ll admit, my natural hiking tendency is to GET PLACES.What’s our destination? Great! I sure hope there’s a view at the end. And what’s the shortest amount of time we can get there in? Let’s haul! That makes it even better.
My wife brings a different mentality into hiking. She is the flower noticer, and the one who always catches the unique shape of trees. I usually like beauty on the go. She likes to ponder a bit more. Over Thanksgiving we were on a chilly hike and my daughter, who apparently takes after her mom, squatted down to notice something that we all missed- frozen mud that had formed "needle ice". Sometimes we need to slow down our pace to notice what’s forming around us.
We are about to enter into the 4 week season of Advent. Advent is a time of waiting and watching. It’s a time of looking around, noticing things we might not normally notice. It’s a time to realize that when God does something, it often takes a while to develop. In fact, we may miss it altogether because we’re either in such a hurry, or we’re only looking for the great view of the angelic choir in the sky.
Japanese theologian Kosuke Koyama, in his book Three Mile An Hour God, suggests that God moves at the speed of walking, because this is the only speed of love.
"God walks ‘slowly’ because He is love. If He is not love He would have gone much faster. Love has its own speed. It is an inner speed. It is a spiritual speed. It is a different speed from the technological speed to which we are accustomed…It goes on in the depth of our life, whether we notice or not, whether we are currently hit by a storm or not, at three miles an hour. It is the speed we walk and therefore it is the speed the love of God walks."
Like every year, the coming month will have many opportunities for joy and celebration with Jesus… but also for busyness and soul-sucking stress.
Our fast paced world needs people moving slowly enough to notice the tears and sit with those who shed them. We need people who can tell stories around a table. We need people who can look around and remain grounded when the earth is shaking. We need people who are willing to walk beside Jesus, not attempt to outsprint him. So whether you have a schedule packed full of to-do’s, or your holiday is quiet and still, take a moment and invite God to help your spirit move at the relaxed pace of His love this month.
Jesus, slow me down to notice the streams forming in the wastelands and your presence with me on the road.
We are careful not to judge people by what they seem to be, though we once judged Christ in that way. Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new.
- Paul (2 Corinthians 5:16-17)
These Together for Good reflections are sent out every single Thursday morning. They help us focus our minds on ways to become like Jesus. So why send this one out on Wednesday night? Well, just a hunch…. Some of you might need an extra night of reflection before this Thursday morning rolls around.
Seven months ago, when we started the TFG project, the hope was that they would strengthen the connection between our relationship with Jesus, and how that impacts our relationships with others. The internal always affects the external.
That’s all well and good when it comes to our churches. After all, isn’t that the whole point of participating in Church?
But when it comes to extended family, there’s this:
ALL BETS ARE OFF.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Seriously though. There is a likelihood that sometime tomorrow (or perhaps already), there will be an element of together that you will experience. Parents, in-laws, aunts, friends, uncles, stepdads, that grandfather with NO filter, and that person that acts like they know you, so you act like you know them, but you have no idea who they are.
And with all that vibrant togetherness, many will experience that wonderful reality of holidays... tension.
-Tension from family issues and fights from a decade ago.
-Tension from acting like everything is perfect because it’s hard to be real.
-Tension from political viewpoints that drastically differ.
-Tension from the presence of alcohol and how it may be used.
-Tension from comparing cooking, families, accomplishments, or whose kids have taken a shower most recently.
It’s hard to deny that times together with family can feel complicated.
For some, the best you are hoping for is that things are uneventful. But your fear is that multiple landmines could explode at any time. You’d like to be thankful, but really, you'll be thankful on Friday morning!
So on Thanksgiving, there may be a real risk that you are expecting a Together for Bad experience.
And yet you will be together… and if it’s family, then there’s a good chance that you’re together…. for good.
Can I give you simple encouragement as you gear up?
God created us for relationship. And in this world, as we walk with Jesus, our relationships with others become a powerful force for good. They don’t always feel that way.
And yet we have been given power. Power to affect the world for good. Power that comes from the Spirit of Jesus in us. Power that can turn ugly things into beautiful things because we are being transformed ourselves.
What would make tomorrow be a Together for Good experience? Take a moment to ask God to make you a partner toward that goal. It will be different for everyone, but it will involve one similarity: You will have to view people in a new way.
Because of Jesus, we now see everyone not for their faults or mistakes, but for their value. We look at every single individual as endowed with unimaginable worth and value. We look with eyes of grace and hope, and we speak with words of gentleness and compassion. Thanks be to God for giving us a spirit that can do such a thing during times of tension!
If there’s a risk that Thanksgiving might feel like a Together for Bad sort of a day, invite Jesus into it and surprise people with love. And if you have very little family tension, you can pray the same prayer, asking God to show you how to truly make your family time a time when others walk away and say, wow, we were really together for good today.
Jesus, give me insight and courage to love others for good as I approach Thanksgiving.
Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
-Paul, second letter to the Corinthians (5:17)
Life sometimes feels like a balancing act, doesn’t it? We are constantly in the thin places between past and future, younger and older, stressed and joyful, old and new. It’s difficult to figure out how to stay rooted.
There’s a pose in yoga called “warrior 2.” You stand with your feet spread apart. One arm extends back. The other arm reaches forward. But the lean and the gaze is important. In warrior 2, the weight is on the front leg, leaning forward, and the eyes look ahead. Yet the hand reaching backwards extends fully and remains open.
I’m not much of a yogi, but let me tell you, the balance is hard. It’s easy to look like like a sleep-deprived surfer rather than an artfully balanced sage.
The posture is intended to be a physical symbol about receiving from one’s past, yet remaining fixed on one's future.
Jesus can teach us some things about discipleship from such a position.
It’s difficult to know what to do with our past-- both recent and distant. Some of us are haunted by pain, difficult experiences, or bad decisions. We’d like to forget about our past altogether. Others of us are ambivalent or nostalgic about our past, and we either don’t think about it much, or we lean longingly back, wishing for the good old days.
That’s the temptation. We want to forget or we want to dwell. Neither helps us become like Jesus. Unfortunately, we rarely seek to reach back with an open hand to receive the gifts of the past.
As God’s people were being formed, wandering through the desert, making new mistakes, and becoming a people— they were constantly encouraged to remember the past. To remember both their own frailty and God’s faithfulness. Making note of those moments would give them strength to keep going, and give them compassion for others who were in the thick of difficulty.
But in the New Testament, Paul is quick to remind young Christians that they can get stuck in the past- and that is not where our focus should be. We have been made new in Jesus. In this new world, there is no place for shame. We leave behind old stories and pick up a new one full of grace and hope for the future.
What if we were more intentional about learning from the past so that we might be formed for the future? God can use everything to help us be formed- including painful events that we’ve walked through. And our past mistakes (the ones that we’d usually like to forget) can even become a cause for celebration.
Because now you see it.
You do realize that, right?
Seeing that it was a mistake….is growth. You have new knowledge now! You are not the same. Grasp that new insight with gratitude, and do something with it as you lean and reach forward with Jesus. Take hold of the overwhelming grace of God that was, is, and will be available to you always.
Do you dwell on the beautiful moments of your past? Be filled with gratitude at those moments and the influence of others in your life who faithfully led you there. Let it be a tool to learn how to press on and faithfully love others. Let it spur you to new depths with Jesus.
As we learn a healthy balance between our past and our future, it may be helpful today to ask these questions:
Do I invite God to teach me from my past, or do I simply dwell on mistakes or glories?
Am I waking up each day seeing myself as a new creation in Jesus and living expectantly, or has the weight of life kept me from leaning into the future with hope?
If you’re looking for a way to prayerfully look back over each day with God and you’re unfamiliar with the prayer of Examen, try it out.
Jesus, help me learn from everything in grace.
Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. […]
“Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them.
Luke 10:30, 33-34
There are places in nature where two worlds collide. Rivers meet oceans, marshes meet forests. Two ecosystems that are quite different find themselves sharing the same space.
And that’s where the magic happens.
These places of collision are called ecotones. The name literally means a place where “two ecologies are in tension.” What’s so special about them? Ecotones are where the greatest concentrations of life in the natural world are found. They are where living things thrive the most. When the two areas meet, new characteristics emerge that are not found individually in either system, allowing new species to flourish.
The Jesus life is a life of intersecting boundaries. A few weeks ago I walked the borderlands of Mexico and the United States, hearing so many stories of people from a vastly different world than me. But when the opportunity came for our worlds to collide, even briefly, there was beautiful life. Choosing to engage with another culture opened the door to seeing God in new ways.
We live in a world badly in need of cultural ecotones. We like to stay among the people who look, think, act, and talk like us. But that isn’t working. We become isolated from those who are different from us. Even those with whom we disagree would bring forth beautiful life if we learned to serve and engage with one another.
In the famous good samaritan story that Jesus told, the radical part was that the Samaritan who served the Jewish victim was from a neighboring culture that Jews deeply disliked. A Jewish person having compassion on a Jewish person was nice. But a Samaritan showing kindness to a Jewish person? That was where life explodes. We can only imagine what may have happened had the story continued. Maybe they never saw each other again. Today, though, you can imagine that those two would be facebook friends and grab coffee when they were in town and probably FaceTime with their kids. Maybe they would help generations of families and friends break down stereotypes and judgments about Jews and Samaritans.... all because of that one collision, where someone chose to move toward the other (at least, that’s what I hope would happen today).
Perhaps the prophetic witness of our generation will look less like shouting, and more like sitting. Perhaps we will reveal the love of Jesus by listening to people different from us, and loving them. We will find that when we engage with people, cultures, and perspectives that are challenging, new forms of life will emerge. But we have to stay there long enough to let the magic happen. We have to endure the awkwardness. We have to ask good questions. And beyond it all, we have to love with an authenticity that is beyond question. Jesus can give us that if we ask.
What cultural or relational ecosystem will you be willing to enter into this week? Consider starting a conversation with someone vastly different from you, or serving someone you disagree with. Don’t be surprised if Jesus brings surprising new forms of life.
Jesus, help me find the life that comes from kindness and service to those different from me.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
-Paul, Romans 5:3-5
I recently re-watched the delightful and bizarre film Evan Almightywith my kids. The short recap is that God (Morgan Freeman) calls a newly elected politician (Steve Carrell) to leave his high status job to build an ark in the middle of a housing subdivision. Like a modern day Noah. I know. It’s a plot leap. You should probably watch it yourself to understand. That’s not my point. This call from God comes after Evan’s wife prays and asks God for their family to come closer together.
But it doesn’t exactly work. After Evan finally caves in and begins making the ark, acting a little bit nuts, everyone deserts him. He becomes a laughing stock at his job. Television networks mock him on the evening news. Even his own wife leaves with the kids because she can’t handle his delusions.
When Evan’s wife is away, God shows up looking like a waiter to chat with her in her distress at a restaurant (Morgan Freeman is fabulous, by the way).
He listens, and then he asks her a few questions…
(watch it here)
If someone prays for patience, do you think God gives them patience?
Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient?
If he prays for courage does He give them courage, or opportunities to be courageous?
If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings?
Or does he give them opportunities to love each other?
Really good point, God—er, Mr. Freeman.
I'm not suggesting that Evan Almighty is a helpful crash course in theology (though you could do worse). But I was reminded that perhaps we sometimes misunderstand the process of being shaped by God. It’s not random magic. It’s a partnership.
Opportunities are all around us. Life is hard. Things can get discouraging. But as we bow our heads and pray for God to change us- giving us more humility, more patience, more strength, more courage… we need to also lift our heads and look around, so that we see the holy moments that give opportunity to practice what we’ve been praying for. God wants to form us, but it will only happen with our movement too.
Of course, we don’t believe that God is the author of the heartache in our lives, or the source behind our struggles. But the beauty of God’s redemptive character is that in God’s economy, nothing is wasted. Even our greatest trials can be transformed by God into opportunities for us to become more like Jesus. In fact, it could be argued that those hard experiences are the most transformative times of all.
After the restaurant scene, Evan’s wife decides to return home, and the family shares quite an adventure building a 300 cubit long ark! Laughter, exhaustion, and bonding ensue. God provided the opportunity. But the response was still up to people. I’ll let you watch the movie on Netflix to see if the flood ever comes.
Today, keep an eye out for holy opportunities for you to become what you’ve been asking for. God’s Spirit will empower you… but you’ll still have to make the move. Thankfully, Jesus will be with you the whole way.
Jesus, help me notice the opportunities you give me today to be formed in your character.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
- Ps 139:23-24
Last week I had the opportunity to watch my wife perform on opening night of her latest theater production. It was a fun time in the city, and as I drove home late in the night, I was still lost in the bizzare world of Neil Simon’s comedic mind. I worked my way through the city stoplights and zipped onto the I-95 onramp for the short drive home. About a mile down the highway, a car behind me started beeping and flicking their lights at me. I was in the right lane, not swerving, and going the speed limit. What’s up with the annoying driver? Don’t distract me! We’re on the interstate!
It wasn’t until they had sped past me (possibly waving to me with one of their fingers!) that I did a quick examination and realized that I had never turned my headlights on. I rarely drive the city at night, and it was so well lit on those streets that I hadn’t even noticed my headlights were still dark. And when I got to the highway, that really became a problem. Others noticed, but I didn’t. Whoops.
My first thought after the beeping and the flashing was quite clear:
WHAT’S YOUR PROBLEM?
That’s what happens when we’re not self-aware. We immediately look at others when an issue arises. And often the result is that we walk around being annoyed and angry at everybody else.
How many of our offenses, our conflicts, and our judgmental moments could be alleviated by a habit of self-examination? I became unnecessarily annoyed, and caused fear (and likely anger) in another driver. All of that could have been avoided earlier by a bit more awareness of what was really happening.
Pete Scazzero is a pastor who helps people become emotionally healthy. He often says that some people who think they are spiritually mature actually have the emotional maturity of a toddler. I think he’s onto something.
Self-awareness is not "pop psychology" or self-help. It’s about being able to notice our blind spots before they hurt someone (ourselves included). So we cultivate a life of asking God and trusted friends for insight, so that we can love Jesus and love our neighbors with our full selves. Where are we at risk from selfishness? Anger? Insensitivity? Ego? Stress? What are we too busy or preoccupied to notice?
We might call this soul-searching. King David had to learn it the hard way. In his immaturity he became so blinded by pride, power, and lust that he stole someone’s wife and committed murder…. and rationalized it all. Later, full of sorrow and heartache, he had to learn to practice the prayer, “Search me, o God, and know my heart…” He needed a regular dose of God’s eye opening insight.
This is serious heart work with God. If we aren’t aware that something is off within us, it’s inevitable that we’re going to end up in an accident with long term consequences. But if we realize that our headlights are off as we’re driving down the highway, we can invite Jesus to help us get things turned back on. And hopefully, next time we can be aware enough to flip on our lights before we endanger those around us.
Take a few moments to breathe with Jesus today. Notice your stresses. Ask him to search your heart and expose anxiety, fear, and pride. And ask a family member or trusted friend if you’re missing anything lately. It’s worth the risk.
Jesus, search my heart. Help me see my blind spots, and lead me toward life.