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.