By Teresa Zehr
(Taken in Part from the book “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” By Peter Scazzero)
Augustine wrote in Confessions in A.D. 400, “How can you draw close to God when you are far from your own self?” He prayed “ Grant, Lord, that I may know myself to know thee.”
When we don’t know who we are, what our hopes, dreams and fears are, it is very hard to fully know who God is. “The vast majority of us go to our graves without knowing who we are. We unconsciously live someone else’s life, or at least someone else’s expectations for us. This does violence to ourselves, our relationship with God, and ultimately to others.” (Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, P.66)
For much of my life I felt that I needed to fulfill other’s expectations of me. I was afraid to let others down. I would worry about what others thought of me. And because of that, I would often take the “safe route”. The route that was least displeasing for the most people. The route that didn’t ruffle too many feathers. I wouldn’t share everything that was on my heart, for fear people would judge me, or dismiss me. I didn’t dream about things, for fear of what others would think. Little did I realize, that while doing that, I was becoming less and less in tune with who I really was. Stuffing my hopes and dreams down into the bottom corners of my heart, leaving them to gather dust and cobwebs.
Recently when Jeremy and I were praying with some of our friends, our friend Dave saw two pictures that were meaningful for me. The first picture was of me as a little child sitting in a car seat, buckled up tight. I then unbuckled myself, crawled out of the car seat and ran off to play. The other picture he had was of me as a child, in a cape. I was standing on the front lawn with my hands on my hips, ready to take on the world. For me, the meaning of these two pictures was quite clear. I needed to let go of the things that were holding me back, freeing myself up to play and even dream about what I would love to do. Like throwing myself out there and starting a blog…
It isn’t always easy to become more in touch with our inner selves. In fact, most often it is quite difficult to do this! I’ve learned that even attempting to free myself, to undo those buckles holding me back, can do amazing things for my heart, enabling me to be my true God-given self that I was created to be.
I want to invite you today to practice checking in with our hearts to see where we are. Let’s take a few minutes to do an awareness examen. If you haven’t done one of these before, and it feels awkward, that’s ok. If you feel uncomfortable with silence that’s ok, just try to stay focused on the questions. Set a timer for 3 minutes and reflect in silence for the questions below. Feel free to jot down some notes if you want.
Question 1: What are you mad about? (Three minutes of silence)
Question 2: What are you sad about? (Three minutes of silence)
Question 3: What are you glad about? (Three minutes of silence)
Question 4: What are you excited about? (Three minutes of silence)
Now that you’ve explored your heart, take a few minutes to talk to Jesus about what you discovered. (Three minutes)
Many of us are so unaccustomed to distinguishing our true self from our false self that it may seem difficult to know where to begin. Taking time for an awareness examen is one step you can take to become more aware of your true self. I want to encourage you to find ways to do this on your own this coming week, and to discover what Jesus is teaching you about yourself and God through this process.
Lord, teach us to know ourselves better in order to know you better. As we dig into our hearts with your loving guidance, may we feel safe in your guidance. Walk with us on this Holy Ground, and teach us your truth. In your name we pray, amen.