I can do it by myself. Mummy I know. Actually I knew that already. Don’t help me. I was about to say that. Yeh I knooooow.
I just needed to find myself. I don’t know who I am anymore. I need to take time for me. It’s just not working for me anymore.
The words of the self assured, independent longing 6 year old is not so different from the teen or adult desperate for self expression.
We’ve all heard these words. We’ve all been the ones to say them. That self defensive assertion that we know, that we didn’t need another to clarify, to help, to suggest. From the child-led learning in the classroom to the gap years of self discovery, the films of proud independence and coming of age to the celebration of singleness as a time to redefine, focus on and attend to me and my needs…. we love a good journey of self discovery and self reflection.
As a teacher I have seen the impact of child led learning has in the classroom, as a friend the significance of that gap year, or time of singleness. None of these things are bad in themselves, but we use them, consume them to know, to discover ourselves, and we end up lonely and lost, alone in self affirming or self condemning introspection.
As a Christian I believe wholeheartedly in self discovery: That we are made to know ourselves, to find out who we are and our true purposes in life.
I believe wholeheartedly in self reflection, that we are called to examine our hearts, thoughts and lives, to reflect on our ways and consider our paths.
However, as Christians, we want to lead people not to themselves but to the welcoming merciful refuge of God, to find satisfaction, purpose in Him alone. How then can we justify self awareness, self examination if the goal is Christ?
The world is hungry and crying out for self discovery, for finding and fulfilling the deep desires of hearts, seeking connection and contemplation. A world resembling a classroom full of children all individualistically exploring their own learning, carving out their own ideas, but in isolated fragmented discovery as any conflict, any conversation over different viewpoints or methods are crushed under the weight of pluralism and its demand for quiet, shallow, hushed tolerance.
We are coming up to advent, that time we come in wonder and awe and behold our transcendent God, our Creator who came down. God become man as the only one, as God-Man, who alone could bring man to God. In God’s giving of Himself to humanity, in humbling himself to the likeness of human flesh, he came that we might truly know ourselves in the only way we can, in light of who God is. The light of the world has come and flooded the world with his grace, his redemptive works, and his outrageous mercy in drawing fallen sinful self into full, reconciled relationship and eternal union with the perfect holy God.
God the Son became Christ Incarnate to flood his light into our lives and very selves, to the depths of our hearts, thoughts, desires and fears. His light exposed, came in truth and people reacted in awe, fear, anger, and worship. His light was so blinding and exposing that it allowed for no neutrality in its response, no room for the pluralism of its day.
The light of the world has come shining His truth, His Father’s truth in the power of the Spirit, so that we can truly and honestly self discover and self reflect on the basis of truth. Without Jesus, our only accountability is ourselves and our self discovery and self reflection will certainly be self affirming, our methods in our learning will always be the best to us. How can they not be when there is no accountability?
In this light, by his Spirit working in us now and reminding us always of the words the Word of God came to speak to us, our God Immanuel keeps us self reflecting, keeps us self aware, keeps us growing, in joyful, free, loving fellowship and belonging with Him and with one another as His bride the church. This is true freedom, true self discovery, true purposeful living. Life lived to the full with our Lord who came not only for our salvation, but for our eternal secure belonging with God as Father, Son and Spirit, forever to worship, enjoy and delight in our reconciled relationship with our Creator and God.
We cannot know ourselves in isolation. Life is not meant to be lived in a spiral and endless cycle of self discovery beginning and ending with self. Such a cyle will torpedo through relationships, using and abusing for self gain, shipwrecking all within our path that doesn’t fulfil our subjective desire of the moment, one that will change tomorrow. No, instead, we are made for relationship with one another and with God to love him and others. That is true freedom. That is true Spirit led spirituality.
In the kingdom of God self discovery comes through self forgetting, abandoning self for the sake of others. Self discovery means surrender to Jesus as Lord, to the Word made flesh who came to proclaim the grace and hope that is found in Him alone. Self examination is the bringing of our hearts and our lives to the power of the word of God, to its words of encouragement, hope, blessing, judgment and conviction on our hearts.
In our culture of self discovery, god is a tool to be used to satisfy criteria, meet demands, fulfill latest wishes like Aladdin’s genie in a lamp. The world says god is there to serve according to man’s criteria, a commodity to consume along with all others paths to self fulfillment and self discovery.
But God is our Lord and Saviour who gave himself, revealed himself, who came down to reconcile us to Him, who alone and always acts for the redemption of his children who so helplessly cannot know what they want and need. Our God is a God who came to serve, who came to give His very self. God and man reconciled in the person of Jesus, fully God and fully man, the servant King restoring in us our true selves as we were created to be, children of God with lives lived to the full in joyful eternal fellowship with our God.
In the world, self growth is offered through selfish pursuit of goals and desires, in our careers, relationship choices, use of time and money. In the kingdom of God, self growth comes from self control and self restraint as we allow the Lord Jesus to reign in our hearts, teach and guide and form us by his Spirit and word in delightful surrender. Dying to self as we give to others. Growth in gentleness comes with restraint of anger, growth in kindness comes in self control over possessiveness over our time as we love and serve those around us, our growth in joy comes in self abandon to the will of the Lord trusting in his good and wise fathering of us, rather than selfishly storing up temporary transient fleeting ‘pleasures’, in pursuit of true everlasting joy.
In the world, the pursuit of self ends at shallow self, an endless spiral of introspective shallowness, fragile in its dependence on our fleeting and subjective emotions and needs, as we pass through relationships and leave them when they no longer fulfill, as we exchange experience and possessions for others when they no longer satisfy. The cycle of self can be lonely, exhausting and desperately empty.
As we approach advent, let’s lift our hearts to our God who came down for us in all our helplessness and inability to do a thing to save find or know ourselves truly.
In the incarnation, we encounter an act of pure grace, our transcendent Lord who so loved the world he came to unite himself to us, bind himself to us and fulfill, satisfy every longing, to enrich and fill our lives to a fullness we can only imagine in part this side of heaven.
So, by this grace, let’s examine our hearts and reflect on all that the light of his truth and the word of God exposes there, knowing we do so as redeemed, loved, children in the presence of God our Father, in the name of Christ our elder brother, our advocate, and in the power of the Holy Spirit who is working always to keep us shining brighter and brighter like stars.