Wednesday, December 13, 2017

“What’s that mean?” or The Gift of Self-Awareness

The prophet Isaiah notes Israel’s penchant to assume that they have their lives under control. In Isaiah 9:13 we read, “The people did not turn to him who struck them, nor inquire of the Lord of hosts.” That means that there were signs, hints that something was awry. Something was amiss. They weren’t firing on all cylinders spiritually, morally, relationally, and all they did in response was plan to do more of the same (cf. v. 10). “We’ll just try harder,” they thought. But that wasn’t the point! The point is that they were so unaware, so unmindful, so oblivious to things that they missed the signs that something was wrong. And as a result, they experienced the destructive consequences of their lack of understanding. They were profoundly unaware. So are we!

The gift of self-awareness is granted when we take the time and energy to ask, “Why did I do that? Why did I say that? Why do I act the way I act, think the way I think, feel the way I feel?” Then sit there in that. Listen. Be still. Be silent. Wait. Most people crowd out the time it takes to do the hard inner work that leads to self-awareness. We fill the silent spaces in our lives with noise—TV, cell phones, internet, activity, exercise, relationships, busyness, etc. We can’t hear through all the noise. So we aren’t self-aware.

God wants to cut through the static and get our attention. For the nation of Israel, it was a no brainer. They were in covenant relationship with him and he’d told them exactly what would happen if they broke the covenant so it should have been no surprise. Read Deuteronomy 28-29 for a list of “This is what’s going to happen if you do this or don’t do that.” It surprised them anyway! That’s how unaware they were.

So what are some signs that self-awareness is an issue for us? Here are a couple thoughts: constant stress that seems to never end, depression, the inability to get along, a calloused heart to obvious sin, an unwillingness to reconcile with others, the inability to feel, dirty fighting (threats, yelling, giving others the silent treatment, etc.), and things like that. Self-awareness is terrifying. Because once you are aware of something, you are forced to deal with it. In my case, I discovered to my embarrassment, that anxiety had been a controlling issue in my life for years. I was totally unaware of it. It alienated people, particularly my kids. It produced an unhealthy reactivity in my work. And it was exhausting. After years of living with it, I finally faced the fact that I was an anxious person. Knowing that hasn’t solved it. But being aware of it has given me recourse when it rears its ugly head. Awareness is half the battle. In fact, self-awareness is one of the keys to spiritual and emotional health. Sixteenth century reformer John Calvin once wrote, “You’ll never know God unless you know yourself.” That’s on the firsts few pages of his Institutes on the Christian religion, one of the most famous books in Church history.

My hope is that we’ll all take advantage of the gift of self-awareness. And because of the gospel we can do so with joy. There is nothing God doesn’t know about you! Because of Christ work on the cross, if you’ve turned from sin and put your faith in him, there is nothing you can do to make him love you any more, and nothing you’ve done will cause him to love you any less. You can become self-aware, then deal with you stuff, in total confidence that it won’t do anything but make your relationship with him, yourself, and others better. So with that in mind, take the self-awareness challenge.

What Makes You Tremble? An Election Day Thought

People are afraid these days. The politics of fear seem to be running our country. This political season has seen candidates openly criticize each other because he or she will take us some place horrible. People tremble. Years ago I sat in the living room with a family on an election night much like the one we’ll experience tonight. The preferred candidate of one person in the room was going to lose. They were distraught. They went into their bedroom and closed the door. They were overcome by fear. They trembled.

As a follower of Jesus, we need not be overcome by fear of anything! Really!! Nothing!! At the cross sin was defeated, and in the resurrection the death that goes with it. So while there are many things that should disturb us; politics and politicians, war, racism, poverty, injustice, the dismantling of marriage, and unrighteousness at every level, there is only one thing should make us tremble. What is that, you may ask?

God. Tremble at God. Tremble at the awful beauty and holiness and power and majesty and magnificence of God. He should make us tremble. Our knees ought to knock, and our bodies should writhe--the meaning of the Hebrew word for tremble--when we ponder the awful beauty and holiness of almighty God. Jesus said, “But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him” (Luke 12:4-5). The Psalmist puts it this way, “Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord…” (Ps 114:7). “Tremble before him, all the earth” (Ps 96:9) says the Psalmist again [same Hebrew word]. Ironically, where there is godly trembling, there is deep love, deep joy, deep hope, and deep worship (Deut 6:2; Ps 96:9; Ps 147:10-11). God is not trivial. Before Him, we tremble! And in our trembling, we take comfort.

What makes your heart quake? The mismanagement of the government? The presence of unrighteousness? The reality of injustice? The wrong candidate getting into office? “Do not fret because of evil men…” (Ps 37:1-4) says the Psalmist. Instead, trust in the Lord. The government and our country is in his hands (cf Isa 45:1-7). We need not fear evil, evil people, evil policies, or evil actions. While standing for righteousness, we need only fear God. And in that trembling we’ll find real hope, real joy, real peace, and real meaning in life. On this election day, what makes you tremble?

Note: First posted at Moses Lake Alliance Church, November 7, 2016. I decided to post it here on my blog in light of the election in Alabama, December 2017.