Tag Archives: introspection

Mirror, Mirrior On The Wall

As difficult as it was to transition from my last small group to my current one, it has been a wonderful experience.  I have had the opportunity to meet several new people and have remained connected to old friends.  With the new relationships come lots of sharing; the good kind that allows us to know one another.  Through small group as well as encounters before and after the services, I have heard a few stories about others’ spiritual journeys as well as their current place on their walk.  Although there are lots of triumphs, victories, and joy, there is also a lot of pain.

The act of telling our story seems to dig up a lot of gook, much like dredging a marsh.  The verbalization of where we came from and how we got to where we are seems to send us back to another place in time where our faith was weak or non-existent – where we were lost and felt harshly judged and unforgiven.  It seems to take us to a time before we knew God.  As we talk about those things, we get fidgety and emotional and begin clasping the locks on the floodgates that are holding back the tears until the pressure forces them open.  The tension on our backs is then released as the weight of the world is lifted from our shoulders.  Amazingly, as the tears flow, we get real.  The authentic self is revealed.  And those around us love us and embrace us for our openness.  They know that the sword of judgment is not theirs to swing.  They are grateful for our courage to share as they see and feel how our honesty lights a path that leads to the foot of the cross – the place where we lay our burdens down and receive His unconditional love.

As Casting Crowns tells us in Who Am I:

Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth would care to know my name, would care to feel my hurt?  Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star would choose to light the way for my ever wandering heart?  Who am I, that the eyes that see my sin would look on me with love and watch me rise again?  Who am I, that the voice that calmed the sea would call out through the rain and calm the storm in me?

Before the service today, I ran into a sister and exchanged pleasantries with her.  She is strikingly beautiful, but as I watched her during our conversation, there was something that was obscuring her natural pleasant appearance.  I asked her was everything okay and told her that her eyes were telling me that something was amiss.  She sighed! She then took off the masks of murkiness and ambiguity as she exposed herself through openness and authenticity.  She explained that she was struggling because she had recently collided with people from her past that brought back difficult memories and unresolved issues that she had previously put away.  Her loved ones, who knew about the experiences in the past and were negatively impacted by them, stood in the intersection with her and exhibited the utmost dignity and grace.  Without a hint of anger, they reminded her that the damage to the relationships had long ago been repaired.  They even embraced the other folks, seeking closure on her behalf and for everyone’s sake.

The sister was struggling because as she peered into the mirror on her wall (one that beckoned an admission that she was not the fairest of them all), the reflection she saw was herself in the distant past.  However, her family saw her through the eyes of God, as the beautiful and wonderful person she has become.  I saw her for the human she is and loved her even more for showing me, through sharing her experience, the rewards of complete honesty.  Psalm 103:9-18 teaches us:  The Lord is kind and merciful.  He is patient and full of love.  9 He does not always criticize.  He does not stay angry with us forever.  10 We sinned against him,  but he didn’t give us the punishment we deserved.  11 His love for his followers is as high above us as heaven is above the earth.  12 And he has taken our sins as far away from us as the east is from the west.  13 The Lord is as kind to his followers as a father is to his children.  14 He knows all about us.  He knows we are made from dust.  15 He knows our lives are short, that they are like grass.  He knows we are like a little wildflower that grows so quickly, 16 but when the hot wind blows, it dies.  Soon, you cannot even see where the flower was.  17 But the Lord has always loved his followers, and he will continue to love them forever and ever!  He will be good to all their descendants, 18 to those who are faithful to his agreement and who remember to obey his commands. 

Typically, we don’t invest the time to confront our struggles.  We don’t’ talk with one another as souls holding hands, supporting each other as we wade through the sludge that life brings our way.  Instead, we tuck it all away, only to be confronted by a repressed reflection from the past at inconvenient times and on terms not our own.  You see, we have created earthly standards about how we should look, think, feel, and act.  We then make unrealistic comparisons of ourselves to imperfect examples – other people.  When we realize we don’t measure up (Duh! We are each on a different path with a different purpose to live out), we feel inferior, like failures.  Dealing with it at that point becomes nearly impossible.  Let’s think this through: if we were facing some legal battle, we would hire a lawyer who would listen to our case, apply the relevant case law, and talk it over with others in the firm.  When facing a spiritual battle, why don’t we share the experience by talking with others, seek wise counsel, gain guidance from His word and obtain advice from our spiritual supporters?  It took an uncommon courage for that sister to talk through that struggle with me.  My hope is that I was able to encourage her in a way that is helpful and healing.  Acts 18:9-10 tells us: “Don’t be afraid!  Speak out!  Don’t quit!  10 For I am with you and no one can harm you.  Many people here in this city belong to me.”

As I reveled in the incredible heart attitudes of the sister earlier, I now toss and turn as I confront the judgmental and unforgiving reflection in my own mirror.  Walking the gauntlet towards my unresolved issues is treacherous.  So before I step out, I will first reach out for those in my safety net, to place hands on me to steady me on this walk.  Prayerfully and carefully, we will strike out towards resolution.  As my sister has been a guiding light for me, may I courageously be the same for others.  May sharing my story lead others to Him.

I am a flower quickly fading, here today and gone tomorrow.  A wave tossed in the ocean.  A vapor in the wind.  Still You hear me when I’m calling.  Lord, You catch me when I’m falling.  And You’ve told me who I am.  I am Yours, I am Yours.

As I tussle with my own struggles, the experience has me here:

  1. Regardless of the issue, bring it to Him.
  2. We were made in His image but He knows we are human.
  3. There is no perfection; but in all things pursue excellence, in His name.
  4. Reflect positively and in the present
  5. Be the courageous example of openness and authenticity

Not because of who I am, but because of what You’ve done.  Not because of what I’ve done but because of who You are.

Population Me

So frequently, I do not feel like engaging with others.  My preference is to acknowledge their presence and settle into my cozy, quiet happy place; checked out from any reality accessible to others.  In those moments, I justify my actions by calling myself an introvert or loner and rationalize that is just who I am; ignoring what the Keeper may be calling me to do.  I say things internally such as “I am tired and need to be alone to rejuvenate and regain some energy”.  Meanwhile, some soul in my presence is clamoring for the precise attention that God has placed me here to provide in that specific moment.  Rick Warren tells us “Time is your most precious gift because you only have a set amount of it.  You can make more money, but you can’t make more time.  When you give someone your time, you are giving them a portion of your life that you’ll never get back. Your time is your life.  That is why the greatest gift you can give someone is your time.  It is not enough to just say relationships are important; we must prove it by investing time in them”.

So…, the experience begs the questions: Where am I turning to receive my nourishment?  Nine episodes of law and order?  1 kg of cherries (as if excess of a healthy choice is really that good for me)?  Or maybe it’s yoga – just me and my mat?  In and of themselves, none of my vices are bad.  The problem arrives when they are taken to excess and fail to include, let alone make first, the one who made any of them possible.  The reality is that regardless of how yogurt eating, granola crunching, Birkenstock wearing I am, I was built for a relationship with God and community with his people, not solitude.  Matthew West in My Own Little World tells us:
“What if there’s a bigger picture
What if I’m missing out
What if there’s a greater purpose
I could be living right now
Outside my own little world

Start breaking my heart for what breaks Yours
Give me open hands and open doors
Put Your light in my eyes and let me see
That my own little world is not about me”

It is a truth that we all have energy centers and pressure points that each has to be replenished and relieved.  Taking time off, getting rest, and taking a vacation are necessary and expected.  But – spending time talking to God (praying), listening to him (reading his word), and sharing the wisdom, guidance and inspiration gained by being led by the Holy Spirit on a daily basis, is a requirement for those of us who have devoted our lives to Him.  My challenge to you is to start where to are.  If you are not reading, praying, and sharing daily, begin now.  Try reading the scriptures for five minutes in the morning; take a five minute “bio break” (or any other place where you can find a quiet, unoccupied space) to pray and give thanks in the afternoon; and close out your day with an act of kindness (let a car in front of you in tight traffic, go out of your way to smile at someone, pay a sincere compliment, or send an uplifting text to someone).  If you are already there, there is always room to take your “game” to the next level.  Maybe you have a one hour period you can have a quiet time. Great!  Do it consistently and with resolve; slow the pace of your walk to ensure you notice, smile at, and acknowledge those around you – and share your faith while you are at it; pray for that disconnected sister, look up a scripture that speaks to what she is going through and email it to her.  We all have space to be blessings to each other even in the midst of taking care of our individual needs.

It is factual that life comes at us fast and is full of competing demands; that we have to take care of ourselves if we are going to sustainably take care of others; and that stillness and quiet spaces are highly illusive.  But it is equally true that Our Father who calls for his will to be done, gives us each day and our daily bread.  That same Father yearns for us to seek Him first, meditate upon his word, and to love one another.

As I continue through this day in all of my introversion, I am reminded of the following:
1.  Shells are for turtles and caves are for bats
2.  Give the first 10% of my all to Him and He will restore me and cause me to thrive in the other 90%
3.  By giving, I receive – the cornucopia of His gifts to be used for His glory, and
4.  To love one another is the commandment that is second only to loving God with all your heart, mind, and soul.

“For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.” Psalm 33:4-5 NIV