Monday, March 5, 2012

The Gift of Knowing Ourselves

I've learned a lot in the last 10 years of my life.  And I love it all and am so thankful for every bit of wisdom and knowledge the good Lord has allowed me to amass.

But one particular bit of knowledge that I am slowly coming into and especially thankful for is self-knowledge.  Man, that stuff is empowering!

And not just in a human sort of way.  John 8  31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Truth is so important.  Jesus IS the Way, the Truth and the Life. He doesn't just have truth, he IS truth.  And we are to base our lives on truth, and therefore, on Him.  

Knowing God, through Scripture is relatively easy.  Ok, not even a little.  But, it's possible, because it's written in plain English before our own eyes. We can read about God's qualities.  He is holy, righteous, just, forgiving, loving, powerful, jealous, omnipresent, all-knowing, pure, perfect.  The list goes on.  Basically, he is everything we are not.  

But, I have found self-knowledge to be a bit more tricky to discover.  I don't know myself, and I live with myself-every day!  

I just read Death of a Salesman, and it was about this same thing.  Willy was a salesman, but lied to himself his whole life.  He trained his sons to do the same thing.  And when it was too late, they realized that their life was one big lie.  Not a way I want to go!  

Part of the reason I don't know myself is because of pride.  I often 'want' to be something I'm not, so rather then face up to the fact that I am falling short of my own expectations, I just ignore them.  That is a big one for me.  But, when you ignore a problem, rather then go away, it just gets bigger, messier and more complicated.  And then, years down the road, you have to deal with a huge problem, that started out as just a little thing.  Trust me, it's not worth it!  Just deal with it when it's small.

Another aspect of pride that gets in the way of self knowledge is caring what others think about me.  Now, I think the Holy Spirit does use that as a way of keeping ourselves in check, to a point.  But, we must always be aware of our motives for what we do.  I so often find myself pretending to be what I think someone else wants me to be.  And that is particularly easy for me, because of my empathetic nature. When I do it with eyes wide open, knowing I am trying to 'practice' godliness until it becomes a part of me, then it's not so bad.  But when my ultimate motivation is just to make someone like me, then it  can become a real problem.  I start to forget who is the real Sarah and who is the acting one.   And after 20 years of that-phew!

Another brick in the wall of self-knowledge is laziness.  Getting to know how I operate and what makes me tick takes time and effort.  I have to study my past failures and successes, analyze them, try things out and see what works, and discard what doesn't.  I have to really think and pray.  And that takes time and effort. Something we Americans are convinced we don't have.  

There are many other bricks in the wall that need to be taken down, one at a time.  But those are the main ones I've noticed in my own life. 

It's hard to face oneself square in the mirror, see all the sin and ugliness and acting and fear.  But, oh the power when we do!  I have been amazed at how the Lord has been changing me, making me more like Him.  But I had to face who I really was, before I could start that change.  Well, thankfully I didn't have to face it all at once.  He has been slowly opening my eyes to the horridness of my own sin and pride, and to my lack of self knowledge.  I have just had to say 'yes' every time he wanted to show me something new.  It gets easier with time. :)  You kind of get used to the fact that you are such a useless sinner.  But that isn't so bad when you realize you have an almighty God who cares and is willing to go to the trouble of helping you see truth, and better yet, to change you so you live in that truth.  

As I have faced my own sin and realities, as I have gotten to know myself better, I have been amazed at how much easier it is to make good decisions consistently.  To prepare myself for times of struggle that I know are coming.  We are soldiers, we are runners, according to Scripture.  And both take training and knowledge and time-on-task.  

I feel so empowered to be the wife and mom that God has asked me to be.  I love that!  I wonder if I had faced my own shortcomings sooner, if I could have avoided the years of trouble and waste.  Probably not, it's all part of the training I guess.  And facing them without the powerful knowledge that God is sovereign and that I am here to glorify him, would have just been defeating.

But, all of that rambling to say, I hope and pray that God allows me to show my children who they really are.  To face that reality, hard as it is.  And to look for ways to use their personalities, skills, strengths and even weaknesses, to their own advantage.  Well, to further the kingdom of God.  I want to give my kids this tool.  But boy I don't want them to use it glorify themselves!  

It makes marriage so much easier and sweeter!  Drew and I struggled the first 5 years of our marriage.  Only by God's grace are we still together.  We look back and wonder how in the world we made it!  But now, I can see that so many of those struggles were because we didn't know ourselves.  We pretended we were one thing, when in fact, we were another.  And that just doesn't work in a marriage relationship.  Or any real relationship.  

And so many of our mistakes, I can see now, were because of our lack of self-knowledge.  

I am a type A, overbearing, neat freak who likes to study and read and is incredibly practical and boring.  I like to control things that are in my life and take my job very seriously-whatever it may be.  I tend to be goal oriented and forget the process in between. I tend to see the negative in life, as I enjoy fixing things.  I am extremely empathetic and independent, to a fault mostly.  I am an incredibly slow learner, and tend to get lost in common sense.  But I am learning that none of those things are 'bad', as long as I am aware of them.  But when I don't see or acknowledge them, they tend to control me, and make life miserable for myself and those around me.  Unacknowledged, they are a  liability.  But acknowledge, they become an asset.  I can use my strengths and be aware of my weaknesses.  It's been amazing to see!

I hope and pray that the Lord allows me to graciously help my kids to see who they really are (and love them no matter what), and who He really is. And what a dynamite combination that is! 

To God be the glory, great things he has done.  Why?  Because He Liked It!  :)

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