Self-discovery as a path to holiness

Sanctification starts not with rules but with the forsaking of pride.

Purity begins with our determined refusal to hide from the condition of our hearts. Out of self-discovery, honestly done, humility may grow, and in humility, meekness; a quiet, unswerving, gentle strength.

Because once you honestly know yourself, and recognize the coexistence of self-acceptance and grief over your own sin, you have a model for graciously treating the sinners that continually surround us.

I’ve run across people who object to “self-discovery” as a waste of time.

They are the type that may dismissively refer to inner work as “navel gazing,” and self-absorption. Something “good Christians” (in particular) know better than to waste time on.

In contrast, I think of pursuing self-discovery as understanding all the inner whys. Perhaps because I’m a novelist and I’m always looking at motivation, I feel as though understanding the root will give me more tools.

Who we are now is a summation of everything that has come before.

A lot of good Christian folks I know (including me) stumble and stutter with the concept of Testimony. Testimony being that thing that describes the difference Christ has made in one’s life; testimony being the glowing After that one now lives in, in contrast to the dark Before.

Our recent attendance at Fairbanks Recovery Church has provided lots of examples of these, but the blessed openness of these testifiers also provides insight to those without the dramatic before.

We need a better set of words. There is a dangerously binary slant the the pair, Before & After.

The best I have to offer is Before & Now.

What these brave testifiers testify to is that they are not After. The struggle is ongoing; that they must continue to “die daily,” to surrender to light and truth for strength in their lives.

They know how bad “the dark side” is, having lived it, but they still feel it’s pull.

“The cravings never go away,” one man said Sunday. “What’s up with that?!”

And I start to get a corner of other types of testimony.

There is the “testimony of faithfulness,” which is the gratitude and example of God’s grace to keep us from that dark place, and there is also the acknowledgement that everyone, regardless of the apparent darkness of their past, has been hurt, and has hurt others.

None of us (walking around or reading this post) have reached the after stage.

What I think self-discovery facilitates is recognizing unconscious patterns, or places of hurt, a) so they stop blindsiding us (making us less effective) and b) show us where our tendency is to hurt others.

Free hint: A good starting place is to look at your strengths.

Not only is this a great encouragement (effort extended in our strong areas has the highest pay-off), but our weaknesses are often tangled within our strengths, and if you’re concerned about time {wink} this can be an efficient introduction to knowing more about yourself than… maybe you want to.

Here’s how you use it for sanctification– holiness, right-er living:

As God opens your eyes to the truth about yourself you may not have noticed before, talk to him about it.

1Corinthians 13:12 speaks of one day when I will know fully, “even as I am fully known.”

God is not surprised, disgusted or intimidated by anything you don’t yet know about yourself. He already knows it, and has already accepted you in Christ.

But sin is still sin, and we have a responsibility of confession. The beauty, the reason confession is called a sacrament (means of conveying grace), is that you are “forced” to look at your sin as God does. We name it and repudiate it.

Our sin is against the Living Order, and we have neither inward peace nor inward power until we have offered prayers of penitence. Confession, like thanksgiving, should be specific. It should not be ruthless, but it should not excuse: it should set hooks into the facts.

“I confess this sharp judgement, this jealousy, this cowardice, this bondage of dark habit, this part of the world’s evil.”

Contrition is not easy work: it is surgery. But, like surgery, it is not an end in itself: the wise prayer of confession always leads to an acceptance of God’s pardon… God does not wish us to remember, except as a reminder of our dependance, for he is willing to forget anything.

George A Buttrick, Prayer

I’ve mentioned before on this blog I wrestle with depression. One of the things people with depression must fight is a sense of feeling crazy.

That is, there is so much in their inner world that doesn’t seem to make sense, that seems un-caused and random, that they begin to doubt their own perceptions and judgement.

This only increases their sense of helplessness, and sends them on another loop of the un-merry-go-round of depression.

While recognizing negative things in our lives/selves/memories may be (okay, is) hard, there are some very positive elements at work here.

  1. The depressive (or otherwise self-flagellating) individual learns that there is no such thing as an un-caused anything in his/her life. Cause-and-effect, one of the few sureties in this world, is still in effect. (We can’t always name everything, but we can improve our ratio and that builds confidence to endure more of the currently-unknowns).
  2. “We should not fear to lift our earthly needs before Eternal Eyes, for we are held in Eternal Love.” (Ibid.) We acknowledge them to God in faith that his goodness and provision is enough for everything we need.
  3. When we start to see the stones instead of tripping over them, life gets better. (How many of you need me to tell you better doesn’t always mean easier?)

It’s. so. worth it.

Our relationship with a fellow adult is different than our relationship with a child.

God welcomes both from us, but always he is urging us to grow.

 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 2 Peter 1:5-8

If you’re interested in a simple starting place,  3 Ways to find the Truth– About Yourself is a useful post.

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