Self-deception is one of our natural defenses to meditating on our hearts: searching and knowing our hearts and anxious thoughts. We are prone to do almost anything to avoid self-examination. We have to work hard if we are to see ourselves as we really are, to see ourselves as God or others see us. It takes a certain amount of courage to be able to look into the mirror of God’s Word and see ourselves as he sees us. How can we go about it?
Gordon MacDonald, writing in Leadership Journal (Spring 2010) suggests the following questions one needs to ask oneself in order to test the inner space of one’s life and prompt inner reflection. I have added one or two of my own. Looking back over the past year are there lessons to be learned and wisdom to be extracted? This takes time and serious application. People who are too busy to engage in self-reflection, who dismiss it as unnecessary and morbid, are often shallow. It takes time to mine for gold and to drill for oil. To travel on the road to eternal life requires guidance.
- What have been the beautiful moments in which God may have been revealing himself to me?
- What have been the ugly moments when the worst in me or in the larger world showed itself?
- What have my prevailing feelings been (and what are they at the present)? Has there been a preponderance of sadness, of fear, of anger, of emptiness? Or has it been a time where joy and enthusiasm has been the dominant mood?
- What have been the ‘blessings’, those acts of grace that have come from others – or as I perceive it – directly from God himself? Can I express praise and appreciation?
- Have things happened for which I need to accept responsibility, perhaps leading to repentance? Why did they happen? Were they avoidable and how can they be prevented in the future?
- Is there a possibility that I am living in denial of certain realities? Painful criticism, habitual patterns and attitudes that are hurting me and others?
- Are there any resentments or ill feelings towards others that remain unaddressed, or unforgiven?
- In the company of others: spouse, children, friends, am I a pleasant person to be around? Are people challenged, elevated, enthused when I enter the room? As someone has observed, ‘Some people bring joy wherever they go; others bring joy when they go.’ Which am I?
- What is God trying to say into my life today? Through Scripture? Through other reading? What has he been saying through those in my inner circle of relationships? Through critics? What insights swirl up and out of the deepest parts of my soul? Which of them needs to be repudiated, and which needs to be cultivated?
- What are the things I might do and say that would make the people in my life feel more loved and appreciated?
- Am I mindful of the socially awkward, the poor, the suffering, the needy in my local world and in the larger world? Am I in tune with current events in the nation and the world and perceiving them through the lens of biblical perspective? How do I respond in the light of the Gospel of the incarnation, the resurrection and the ascension of Christ?
- How am I spending my time and money? Do I see them as God’s time and money lent to me?
- How is my prayer life?
- Am I growing and maturing as a follower of Jesus?
- Am I prepared to meet Jesus face to face today if I am unexpectedly called into his presence?
Jesus comes to us, holding a mirror up to us so that we may see what needs to change. He offers his courage, and his loving presence to help us on the road to eternal life. Take this list of questions and use them to guide you on that road in the coming year. Deepen your walk with Jesus. Open your heart to his powerful presence. Resolve to read his Word daily. Pray at all times. Commit yourself to taking action on those truths that are revealed to you. Make this New Year an opportunity to do new things, make new friends, renew old relationships, appreciate your blessings, give thanks for all things, and experience the reality of the kingdom of heaven in your daily life.