Self-reflection. Be yourself. Live intentionally. These buzz phrases are all incredibly popular in today’s culture. We see them in books, in our Instagram feed, and in all sorts of advertising. And now, these ideas are growing in increasing acceptance within Christian circles. But can self-reflection, introspection, and intentional living be Biblical concepts?
Self-reflection is not a natural tendency of mine. In my 20’s and early 30’s, I didn’t think reflection was necessary for me. Spending time in reflection and introspection was not enjoyable; I’d rather just move right on past those thoughts. As I’m a doer, I knew what I wanted to do and that I wanted to get it done, rather than just thinking about it. I did believe in reflecting on God’s Word, but reflecting on my own day, week, month or year seemed like an irrelevant concept.
Then, about six or seven years ago, difficult times hit our family. My husband and I both lost fathers within a few months, I lost a beloved ministry position, and our son was born with some health concerns that involved major surgery and rehabilitation. During those hard years, I came to the realization that the “doing” wasn’t enough, and it wasn’t going to sustain me. Yes, my daily Bible reading provided me with much needed substance, but something was still missing.
In the middle of those hard years, I wrote and taught a women’s study on the book of Psalms. I remember reading Psalm 139 while studying to teach and thinking, Yeah, I know I’m fearfully and wonderfully made. I know God knit me together in my mother’s womb. I know that all my days have been written, every one of them. It’s not like those words didn’t have meaning to me, because they were truly comforting. But, when my eyes fell on verses 23 and 24, it was like the Spirit hit me with a truck:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24 ESV)
That’s what I had been missing! I’d been asking God to teach me and show me and help me to understand my circumstances. I’d been asking Him to show me His will for my life. I’d been begging for direction and insight. I’d been asking Him to fill my mind with the knowledge of Him.
But I had forgotten quite a large portion of the Christian life – asking God to reveal to me where I was missing the mark. God started to open my spiritual eyes to Biblical self-reflection: the act of seeking God and begging Him to search my thoughts and try my heart. I was so concerned with how hard things were and how disappointed I was with my ministry situation, I forgot I had a part to play in my circumstances. God wanted me to see that there were things He wanted to change in me. I had things I needed to work on, but I was so busy either “doing” or throwing pity parties, I hadn’t taken the time to reflect on what God wanted to do in me. I wanted Him to use me but I didn’t want Him to remake me.
That day was about five years ago. It took time for me to really take hold of the idea. Slowly, I’ve begun to learn what it means to daily, weekly, monthly and yearly come before God and ask Him to search me, know me, and show me what He wants to change in me for my good and His glory.
About three years ago, around New Year’s, I began a process of reflecting on the past year and the year to come. I now ask God to show me the things about the past year that pleased Him and where I’d missed the mark. Then, I ask Him to show me what He wants to grow in me in the next year.
This year, as I reflected on 2018, God showed me that I was too often striving to make victories happen on my own. I was constantly looking at the end goal instead of resting in the processes and the waiting. For 2019, I felt Him leading me to the word “embrace.” Embrace for me doesn’t mean stop or retreat; it means to embrace what’s in front of me and let God use me in the present for His glory, instead of constantly striving for some future desire that may or may not be fulfilled. Embrace is my call to see what and whom is in front of me and allow God to work there, not later.
Lord, search me. Know my heart. Try me. Know my thoughts. Show me the grievous ways in me. Lead me in the way everlasting. Amen.