You are not needed by God. I am not needed by God. God is all powerful and all sovereign, He is perfect in his character and has always been, long before the creation of the Earth. Yet here we are, living out our lives to share the gospel and make disciples, spending each day aiming to glorify God in all we do, pursuing knowing Jesus and make Jesus known. We do this despite not being needed. Why?
No one really enjoys sharing their weaknesses, let alone their sins. Even if we understand the great benefit that can come through sharing and confession to others (for both ourselves, our fellowship, and even for others learning from our mistakes), it can feel humiliating. We are often ashamed of our sin, discouraged by our failings, and now more than ever through social media, we can really portray ourselves how we want to be seen, having it all together in a ‘perfect’ life – so why would we want to tarnish that by sharing how short of the mark we fall?
As I explored a bit in my first reflective post Reflecting on Reflecting, I think that vulnerability and, alongside it, openness and authenticity is a vital part of Christian growth and community, so I want to share with you one (or some!) of my recent failings and what I have been reflecting on it.
Just recently as I have been reading a few different blogs and articles, and some of the social media responses to these, I have been struck by how quickly we as Christians can be to prescribe labels to ourselves and to each other, even if they are not accurate. Labels are often shaped by our denominations or theological standing, such as being ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative,’ or ‘Pentecostal’ or reformed’. Admittedly, the majority of what I have seen has been a fight against being ‘legalistic’, whilst also being very defensive of ‘grace-covering-all’- but I have no doubt that the name-calling and labeling goes both ways, and that judgement is often handed out on those who do not fit into the ‘good-Christian’ image.
On the very last page of my Bible, I am slowly developing a list of questions—mostly ones that I come across in my reading, but some which come about through reflecting. I call these ‘heart questions;’ they are ones which I ask to my heart, in a very broad sense, ‘how am I going at this area of life?’ I also use it as a method to remember things I have been struck or convicted by in past reading to ensure I continue to focus on and invest in pursuing Christ and growing in His likeness. They are not questions based on spiritual disciplines (e.g. ‘How have I been going at reading my Bible?’ ‘Am I praying every day?’), but are rather the practical, fruitful outworking of these things; they are an indication of being in a posture allowing the transformation of the Holy Spirit. This might be something along the lines of, “Am I aware of God’s peace in my day to day life?” “Does my life demonstrate to others that I have complete trust in God,” etc. As I was spending time with God recently, I came across another of these questions to add to my list, and thought that putting together such a list could also be helpful for others as a reference to prompt prayer or reflection, or for considering ways to be growing in greater obedience to God. I will compile them into a page (which you can access from the home page), and plan to include a link to the short post I write about them when they are first added to provide a bit more context to the questions.
In my very first year of med school, one of our first assignments was to write an academic essay on reflective essays. I don’t know who first thought this was a good idea, but I recall it as a pretty awful time. However, since then, I have become aware of the importance of reflection as a discipline of spiritual growth, or any sort of growth, and ironically it has caused me to reflect a fair bit on reflection itself. In a recent post in the series on being in a ‘reading rut’, I wrote a post focussed on meditating, which is the active reflection on God’s Word. In this post, I am looking at reflection in a broader sense; reflecting on situations, relationships, ideas and concepts; the process of thinking deeply and mentally working things out, contemplating things of importance. In this sense, reflection is not something that comes particularly naturally to me; my brain doesn’t float to thinking through important and meaningful topics, unless they seem to be having a prominent emotional impact on me and I can’t help but dwell on them. My train of thought seems to have many stations it stops at, and changes route frequently. And in addition, I am often unaware of the reflective process that has taken place when I reach conclusions about things.