Wishing everyone of you, my dear readers,
BLESSED NEW YEAR!We are starting a new year -- again!! It seems we hardly have time to get comfortable with writing one year and the next is upon us.
New Year's resolutions are still being made but I have noticed that for most people they are not made with the same zealous intent to keep them. Seems we have all been there and failed too many times.
Today, I came across some notes I made last summer that made me think about how important it is to know who we are.
We have all heard the phrase "Know Thyself". It is an ancient Greek aphorism that is inscribed in the court of the Temple of Apollo. So from ancient times we know there has been a recognition of the need and importance of knowing oneself.
How many religious thoughts or paths start or focus on self, understanding the world from a self-perspective, finding the god within? How many ad campaigns are successful because they convince us of some self-need? How many self-help books feed that inner pride that we can do it ourselves, be self-sufficient, self-reliant, self-driven, self-aware. Do you know there are 113 English words prefixed by self ? see a list here.
Yet for all our self-focus, can we really ever know ourselves by looking within ourselves?
It is so easy to delude ourselves into seeing ourselves as we wish to be seen rather than as we are. Scripture refers to what happens when a man looks at himself in a mirror. "....for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was." (James 1:24)
Until we are willing to see ourselves through God's eyes, see ourselves as He declares we are, we cannot truly 'know ourselves'. As Jeremiah astutely notes ... "The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?" (Jer. 17:9)
Even when we give mental ascent to the 'wicked' tendencies of our heart we are far quicker to see those tendencies in others than ourselves. And while we would not define self-awareness as wicked, does all sin not start with a 'self-focus' ?
I recognized an example of that in myself this summer when I made the notes I came across this morning.
I was following the US Open Tennis tournament where I knew most of the major players. One afternoon I was in the kitchen multi-tasking - baking and watching a match where one of the players was Roanic -a fellow Canadian. The match was a tight one with winning points going back and forth. All three sets were won by tie-breakers. While I was watching the match, I realized I was not enjoying the match as much as I had the others and emotionally wanted to turn it off. I had enjoyed all the previous matches - but this one was different.
Reflecting on the question, I realized that there were two reasons.
One - in all the other matches I was simply enjoying the games, noting the great shots and cheering for the best man to win. But in this match I had a 'personal' interest. I wanted one man to win, not because he was playing better than his opponent but because of what his win meant to ME. I wanted a Canadian to win.
Two - Some of the other matches I had watched were taped and I knew the outcome of the game, so the stress level in watching the game was much relaxed. The game with Roanic was live, the outcome to me was unknown and it was stressful to watch, especially because I knew who I wanted to win the match. I wanted to control the outcome and couldn't.
Isn't that how we walk through life ? We are quite objective and reasonable in how we judge the things that we encounter UNTIL we have some personal issue or involvement or interest.
I'm not saying that is wrong -- I don't think it can be avoided. But recognizing that that is what we do can help us to not fall into the traps a self-focus lays to ensnare us.
How often are our prayers formed/worded from our own perspective or desires? Do we really want God to choose the best solution/answer or do we want Him to answer according to our own desire? Do we already know how He should answer ? Do we want to be in control? Do we want the answer to fit in with our own desired end?
What does "Thy will be done" really mean? Can we really bring a burden or a need or a worry or a request to God and with a calm heart say,"Thy will be done" ?" Can we from our heart pray .. " I leave my request entirely in your hands knowing that my own intense desire in how I want my prayer to be answered is based on my limited vision and knowledge. I thank you for understanding my human weakness and I willingly give you the right to overrule my own self-wisdom."
Can we 'watch' what God will do simply from a trust-perspective that He will of course do the best thing, the right thing? Do we recognize that holding tight to our own self-focus interest in our requests may actually 'hinder' God's best for us and for others rather than make room for God's best?
It is not an easy thing to do, is it.... to lay down the way we KNOW a prayer answer should come, but we can grow more and more into that kind of trusting place where our prayers simply bring to God's throne the things that are on our heart.
As the world around us reflects less and less of God's wisdom, God's children have the opportunity to show a world of lost souls that we have Someone we can trust... the Unchanging One who is all wise - our Eternal Father, who has only our good in mind even when at first it seems to be contrary to what we think is clearly best for us !
Would it make a difference in how 2015 ends if all God's children lifted their eyes off of 'self' and looked more and more to Him in childlike trust - knowing that in everything we ask we can trust God to do what is best? He is the God who hears and acts - always - in answer to every prayer.
One of my favourite shows of this season is It's a Wonderful Life. Wouldn't it be fun if we could see a movie that would show the differences that would happen in 2015 if more and more of God's people forgot about 'self-interest/focus and turned their hearts and eyes to a God-focus?