Two Ways that Shape Our Lives

All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. (Proverbs 16:2)

We pursue what we think is best in our lives. If something is not right, we will only do it when we convince ourselves that the short-term gains are worth it. Overall, we order our lives according to what we think is best, or the highest good. But, as we realize through the prophet Jeremiah’s guidance, “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). We struggle to know ourselves and to accurately weigh our pursuits and desires. It is only by God’s grace that we can accurately see and know our ways.

And so, there are two ways forward. The first is the way of humility. In this way, we invite God, who weighs the spirit, to make known to us the rightness or wrongness of our ways. This is the way the psalmist takes in Psalm 139, where recognition of God’s ultimate knowledge leads to a request for insight:

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any wicked way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24)

The way of humility is marked by openness, confession, and a willingness to change. We have openness to what God may speak. We take up the practice of confession to identify our sin before God and to be willing to transformed before God’s word. We hold our lives before God, knowing that the life with God is always growing, developing, and changing for God’s glory.

The second way is the way of pride. In this way, we resist God’s revelation about our life’s way. We choose to harden our hearts to the Holy Spirit’s conviction and prompting. Instead of confession, we suppress God’s word and work, seeking instead to give full rein to our desires. It is here that our resistance will lead to a great revelation of our wrongs either in our earthly life or, ultimately, at the end. Jeremiah goes on to tell us:

“I the Lord search the mind
and try the heart,
to give to every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his doings.” (Jeremiah 17:10)

Our life is a response to this contrast of ways in every moment. Our life is made of the many decisions and actions we take each day. Will we take the way of humility or the way of pride?

Can We See and Change Our Blind Spots?: three possibilities for growth

blind spot

One of the greatest challenges for all of us is the reality that we have blind spots in our lives. The concept of the blind spot is probably best known from driving a vehicle. Those of us who took driving classes probably remember the explanation of that space between your peripheral vision and the reflected images of your mirrors that you cannot see. Driver’s education teachers remind everyone to always check their blind spot before changing lanes or merging into traffic. It is relatively easy to resolve blind spots with a quick glance over your shoulder when driving, but much harder to resolve in our lives.

In the larger context of life, blind spots are those aspects of our approach to living, character, or thinking that we simply do not see. Unlike with driving, it is much harder to deal with the blind spots in our larger life context. Why? Because we do not see what we do not see. At least part of the reason for this is that we are too close to our own lives and experiences to see patterns, behaviors, thinking, or speaking that has become second-nature to us.  Because of this, we often discover our blind spots in one of three ways: 1) we smash into them; 2) we have a friend who is close to enough to point them out to us and help us change; or 3) we encounter a different way of thinking or being that confronts us with the need for dramatic change.

The first way of discovering our blind spots is perhaps the most challenging because it causes pain to us and others around us. This painful discovery may sometimes be relatively small, such as the person who realizes their lack of time-consciousness hurts their friendships. At other times it is devastating, such as the person whose serious character flaw causes the end of their marriage, their career, or their friendships. The Apostle Paul had an experience like this. His blinding encounter with the glorified Christ on the road to Damascus ironically opened his eyes to his theological blind spot about the nature of the Christ (see Acts 9:1-19). He was never the same after that painful realization. Like a child who discovers heat is real by putting their hand on a burner, however, we rarely forget our blind spots after encountering pain. It forces us to change whether we want to or not.

Thankfully, this is not the only way to discover our blind spots. We can also learn to see our blind spots through the careful intervention of friends who know us well. When a true friend sees us veering into our blind spots again and again, they will lovingly address that blind spot with us. A friend who loves us does not gloss over difficult things. This is why Scripture tells us: “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses” (Proverbs 27:6). This is, of course, different than a critic who forces their view of someone’s error upon them without the trust-filled context of friendship. That approach is more like another proverb that tells us “a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). To have a friend who gracefully brings a painful but good word about our blind spots paves the way to change. I still can point to various times when good friends—my wife, my roommates in college, an accountability partner, a ministry colleague—have spoken to my about blind spots. Their wisdom and grace helped me to see myself through their eyes; seeing what I could not see so I could grow.

Seeing through another’s eyes is a fitting description of a third way we can deal with our blind spots. We have all likely experienced the striking moment where a flash of insight came to us to about the way things are in the world. When that happens in relation to our own lives, it often shines light upon a blind spot in our lives that needs to be dealt with. This can happen when we hear a message or lecture, read a book, watch a movie, participate in an event, travel to another country, spend time with others unlike us, or participate in personality profiled or self-assessment. The flash of insight that comes through these experiences has the power to change us as our blind spots are illuminated. When I first traveled cross-culturally, I had a powerful revelation about how task-oriented I was in comparison with more relational cultures. While I still tend toward task-orientation, I am at least aware of that tendency, even if I struggle to operate in other ways. The Apostle Peter’s visionary encounter with God on the rooftop of Simon the Tanner is an example of this. This vision opened Peter to his blindness and prepared him for a radical new understanding of and approach to Gentile inclusion in the church (see Acts 10:9-48). The breakthrough brings insight of tendencies that provide the opportunity for change in relation to blind spots we have.

In my own experience, seeing and addressing my blind spots has often come through a combination of the three ways mentioned above. I have sometimes encountered an insight that quickly was paired with either the rebuke of a friend or the pain of smashing into my blind spots. Sometimes a friend’s gracious attempt to point out a blind spot was something I resisted until I read or experienced something that brought that to clarity. My own sense is that it is very difficult to see our blind spots. The moment we think we see them all is the moment we are probably most dangerously blind to something. I have found it sometimes shockingly easy to see others’ blind spots, but difficult to help them see it themselves. Sometimes, I have found that blind spots in others that I turn a critical eye toward often parallel a blind spot in my own life that I see later. Again and again, I return to the final verses of Psalm 139 as a helpful prayer for the revelation of blind spots in my own life:

Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
(Psalm 139:23-24)

Live in Peace

IMG_0146

Have you ever felt worried, distressed, or anxious?

Yes, I know that might seem like a ridiculous question. In one way or another, we have all experienced worry, distress, or anxiety. These real experiences of our lives are the sort of things we encounter throughout the Scripture. In fact, the writer of Psalm 4 expresses thoughts we all likely relate to:

Answer me when I call to You, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer. (Psalm 4:1)

Where do you turn to find peace in these times? Often, we turn to friends or family for support, or look to distractions like television or reading a book. In themselves, none of these things are bad. However, within Psalm 4, we are directed in another way. The psalmist instructs us in the way we should turn in our distress.

God’s Strong Presence
First of all, the psalmist shows us to whom we should turn. “Of course,” you might say, “you are going to say that I should turn to God.” Yes, that is true, but it is not enough of the truth in this case. The psalmist says Read More »

I Am Made Uniquely

In our current series at Eastbrook Church, “Who Am I?“, we are looking at biblical answers to questions about our identity as human beings. This past weekend I explored the ways in which we are made uniquely by God both as human beings in general and also as individuals.

This was also African Global Gateway weekend, where we took time to celebrate the cultures of our African brothers and sisters at Eastbrook Church.

You can view the message video and an expanded sermon outline below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

Read More »