These are common things we hear:
These is not my area of gifting
I am not wired this way
My strengths and weaknesses are…
These are also the common lines we use to decipher and decide what we do, where we serve; and how joyful we are in our circumstances.
Self-awareness is very important. The self-aware person is the one who can restrain himself and choose the more godly way because he knows well his weaknesses and tendencies. But I venture to say that speaking of gifting, wiring and abilities do not add up to self-awareness. They belong to the realm of self-knowledge: things we know about ourselves after we have taken an inventory (personality profile tests) or gone through some experiences (I really enjoy working with the elderly).
Self-awareness goes deeper. It is not so much about what we can or like to do; but about what truly motivates us, what engine is humming within our souls.
King David was on a roll: military success, kingdom expansion, secured borders, repute, and several wives. But he did not recognize that a hunger still lurked within him. He forgot how easily his heart is turned on by beauty. In the devastating episode of his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba and the subsequent abuse of his power to cover up his sin, God would need to bring him to a full accounting. No excuses for the high and mighty, anointed king of the land. In that famous Psalm of repentance, we read this —
For You desire truth
In my inward parts – Psa 51v6
How many layers and levels of truth are there? To God, the truth that matters most is the one that sits deep within the folds of our soul.
David came to realize that he was not invulnerable. It is not a comfortable truth to accept. Indeed; he recognized this frailty for what it is and can do, and he is undone! David was brought to an awareness he did not have previously.
Alas, this is often the way we must travel to come to see ourselves truly – through failure and brokenness. We are tempted to despair – if – our confidence is in what we have to offer.
Self-awareness happens when we are cultivating God-awareness. We discover the contours of our soul and the shape of our hearts as we come to God and ask Him to reveal it to us. After all, we do not like to admit to our brokenness, our neediness and our darkness. We have been well trained to present our best face and put our best foot forward; so much so our hearts are often so hidden from our own view. We need God to show it to us.
At times, what we are shown is so stark that we can only cry –
Create in me
A clean heart! – Psa 51
And strangely at these moments, we do not feel the heavy hand of judgment but the tender draw of acceptance and lovingkindness.
As this happens, we clamber over the walls of self-knowing and self-definitions – which are really walls of self-protection – and are now ready for the vast vista before us, and join the ranks of many who knows what it means to be a servant of the Most High.
“St Paul did not want to be an apostle to the Gentles… He wanted to be a clever and appreciated young Jewish scholar, and kicked against the pricks. St Ambrose and St Augustine did not want to be overworked and worried bishops. Nothing was father from their intention. St Cuthbert wanted the solitude and freedom of his hermitage on the Farne; but he did not often get there. St Francis Xavier’s preference was for an ordered life close to his beloved master, St Ignatius. At a few hours’ notice, he was sent to be the Apostle of the Indies and never returned to Europe again. Henry Martyn, the fragile and exquisite scholar, was compelled to sacrifice the intellectual; life to which was so perfectly fitted for the missionary life to which he was decisively called. In all these, a power beyond themselves decided the direction of life. Yet in all, we recognize not frustration, but the highest of all types of achievement. Things like this… convince us that the overruling reality of life is the Will and Choice of a Spirit acting not in a mechanical but in a living and personal way; and that the spiritual life of man does not consist in mere individual betterment, or assiduous attention to his own soul, but in a free and unconditional response to the Spirit’s pressure and call, whatever the cost may be.”
~ Evelyn Underhill
God no doubt knows all about our gifts, talents as well as the motivations and fears we have. Intent on our salvation; he will take us through the terrain that must be trod for all of these to surface and be handled rightly. Can we His servants learn to trust Him more deeply to tutor and shape and prepare us for the road?
John Wesley’s prayer may help us here ~
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.
So wait on the LORD patiently, endure, serve with gladness and know that your reward, your satisfaction and your highest aim in life is not the perfect church/ministry; but the perfect God – and Him you already have.
Also be not afraid of changes large and small that may come to upheaval all you have worked to build and sacrificed for. Be not afraid of doors that close or small tight spaces. Be not afraid of new winds blowing and invitations to consider something new. For nothing is hidden from His view and if you walk in the Light, you need not stumble even if the trail turns a sharp corner and you feel you may fall off the cliff. Hold on to Him, walk closer to the Light and find that God already has you.