“How are you?” That is a common question for which we seldom expect any but a polite answer; “Fine. And you?” When we are conversing with a close friend or someone we know is going through tough times and we ask, “How are you?” we wait for a real response, expecting to listen and help to carry the weight. That kind of conversation gives that other person an opportunity to unpack their emotions, to sort through their thoughts. What many of us fail to realize is the importance of asking ourselves the question – “How am I doing?”
Self-reflection can be a difficult thing to do, especially in our fast-paced world and with all of the diversions that technology offers us. We need to take time to consciously think about the state of our mind and heart, to ask if our actions are consistent with the values we profess, to remember where we need to do some maintenance on our vital relationships. We can easily become adrift in life, pushed here and there by the expectations of others, becoming slaves of our appetites, failing to make choices that bring about the best ends.
Then, too, in the middle of it all, clear understanding may elude us. Phone calls, deadlines, crying kids, emails, and such things can make us deaf to the cry of our soul for purpose. So, we must make time to ask – “how am I doing?” and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal the why behind the what in life. Kierkegaard offers this – “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.” Simply said, without times of reflection and correction, we can drift far from our intended course, losing sight of the important as we are pressed by the urgent things in life.
Paul reminds us that our Christianity needs times of self- reflection. “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5, NIV)
How do we examine ourselves?
We look for choices made that align with our professed faith in Christ.
If we are His disciple, if He lives in us, we will see evidence of Him; love for others, joyful purpose in life, peace in the middle of crisis, trust in times of storms. Christians live with an active hope of eternal life, and their lives are guided by their expectation of a heavenly home.
We look for progress over time in maturity in godly living.
If we are still getting drunk every Friday, if we are still hating our neighbors, if we are still trying to find happiness in pleasure and things in the same way we were before we came to Christ, we should conclude that we need a course correction, real changes made in our pursuit of the Lord. Those who are maturing in Christ love the things of God, men and women who are deep pools of refreshment for the world in which they live.
We look for healthy emotions in ourselves.
Those who live in Christ are steady, able to trust Him equally in sorrow and joy. If we are in constant conflict, if we cannot settle to follow Him, if we are fervent in ‘faith’ today and apathetic the next – the evidence is that our faith needs to grow.
We look for strong and authentic relationships with other Christians.
If we are avoiding being around people of true faith there is a red flag of caution. Those who are ‘in Christ’ will find encouragement within the family of faith.
Yes, times of examination are critically important. We need moments that allow us to reset, correction, and refocus. We need ‘interruptions’ that break the incessant demands of daily life. Built into the Christian faith is a Holy Meal, a moment when we go back to the basics – His blood that restores us to our Father’s love; His body that was broken so that we could be made whole. One of the essential parts of that time of Communion is confession. Paul says “Examine your motives, test your heart, come to this meal in holy awe. ” (1 Corinthians 11:28, The Message)
How am I doing? It’s not a question to be avoided. It can be a moment of growth!
Today’s word from the Word challenges us to give ourselves to the examination of the Truth. “Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:11-13, NIV)
Abba, keep me on course, my heart and mind aligned to Your will.
Help me to pursue You with my whole heart.
Protect me from slipping into empty prayers and meaningless words,
Thinking somehow that those things can replace true devotion.
Test me. Reveal the secret things of my heart to me so that I will follow You.
In Jesus’ Name. Amen