I came across these words by W. H. Auden in his foreword to Dag Hammarskjöld’s Markings and thought they were worth thinking about further:
No man can draw his own “profile” correctly because, as Thoreau said: “It is as hard to see oneself as to look backwards without turning round.” The truth is that our friends – and our enemies – always know us better than we know ourselves. These are, to be sure, a few corrective touches to their picture of us which only we can add, and these, as a rule, are concerned with our vulnerabilities and our weaknesses.
It is, for example, axiomatic that we should all think of ourselves as being more sensitive than other people because, when we are insensitive in our dealings with others, we cannot be aware of it at the time: conscious insensitivity is a self-contradiction.
Secondly, we can hardly avoid thinking that the majority of persons we meet have stronger characters than we. We cannot observe others making choices; we only know what, in fact, they do, and how, in fact, they behave. Provided their actions are not criminal, their behavior not patently vicious, and their performance of their job in life reasonably efficient, they will strike us as strong characters. But nobody can honestly think of himself as a strong character because, however successful he may be in overcoming them, he is necessarily aware of the doubts and temptations that accompany every important choice. Unless he is a crook or has made an utter mess of his life, he will recognize the truth Cesare Pavese’s observation: “We can all do good deeds, but very few of us can think good thoughts.”
The||40days|| journey of Lent has taken us along the road of acknowledging difficult things in our lives, turning from them, listening to God’s voice, and then following Jesus, our Leader. This week, we continue the journey with a focus around the theme: ‘live.’
At times, it might be easy to mistake the journey of these ||40days|| as only difficult or painful. We might be tempted to view confession, repentance, and sorrow as ends in themselves. But that is not Jesus’ way. Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost in order to bring us back into life with God. We hear Him say these very powerful words:
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10, NIV)
Following Christ moves us through self-denial into deep and true life.Read More »
With all the talk in social media about how many followers you have, it is easy to lose sight of what it really means to follow someone. This season of Lent, which we are marking with our ||40days|| journey, is really all about following Jesus.
So this fifth week we take the next step after acknowledging, turning, and listening, to following Jesus. One of the hallmarks of Jesus’ ministry was his very simple call to people that we encounter very early in Mark’s gospel:
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said. (Mark 1:17, NIV)
These days it might be easy for us to wonder what it really means to follow Jesus. After all, we cannot Read More »
One of the greatest challenges for any parent is trying to communicate with a child. With young children, there are times when you have to sit them down, make sure they have steady eye contact, and then slowly speak your points. After that, you may ask the question, “Do you understand what I am saying?” The parent can only hope the message has gotten through. (Of course, some children have the same concern with their parents!)
One of the ways we can hear from God is through the voice of another person. As we continue the ||40days|| journey through Lent with attention to listening for God, we look today at what it means to hear God in another person. Even as God speaks primarily through Scripture, what does it mean to hear from Him in another person. Let me suggest seven things to consider when evaluating whether a person is worth listening to as a representative of God, whether at a personal or corporate level:
- God speaks through people who love God’s words (2 Timothy 2:14-3:10). When Paul offers instruction to the young pastor, Timothy, he calls him to hold to the truth in contrast to those who lose focus through godless chatter and a departure from the truth.
- God speaks through people who bring His truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). What we hear from others is not God’s word if it is devoid of biblical truth or biblical love. If those elements are there, however, we do well to listen for God in another person’s words.
- God speaks through people who help us develop and grow (Proverbs 27:17). We read inRead More »
Have you ever tried to get something done but cannot seem to finish because of interruptions? Maybe it’s that paper for class that keeps calling your name, but friends or your job keep you from completing it. Maybe the ‘something’ is that magazine you are trying to read through but your kids keep interrupting you to say something or get your attention. Or maybe it’s the meal that’s simmering away in the midst of phone calls and people stopping at the door.
Interruptions can be such a pain. But what if the interruption are the ‘something’ that needs attention? And what if God is trying to speak to us more in the interruptions than in the things we think are so important? This week in the midst of the ||40days|| journey, we are trying to listen for God. But sometimes God speaks in unexpected ways.
This calls to mind the story of the Apostle Paul. With a sense of clear purpose and direction, Paul Read More »
When I do premarital counseling with couples, one exercise I always have them do is called the wish list. Each person must identify three things they wish happened more or less in their relationship, and then share that with one another. While one person is speaking, the other person has to listen without making a judgment on these statements. Then, they have to repeat back what the other person said to insure that they have really listened. It’s harder than you might think. It’s one thing to let the words make their way into your ears, but it’s another thing to truly listen to another person.
The way we listen to God is not altogether different. We must move beyond simply letting His words enter our ears or eyes, but we must be active listeners, who truly hear what He has to say. As we continue our ||40days|| journey through Lent, today we are focus on listening to God’s words. We draw near to the experience of the Old Testament prophets, whose experience is so often marked by this phrase:
Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite. (1 Kings 21:17, NIV)
The word of the LORD came to me (Jeremiah 2:1, NIV)
As we acknowledge our difficulties and turn from them, we must first and foremost turn to the words of God. We do this because the words of God are life-giving. As Moses reflected on the manna God gave the people to satisfy their hunger on the way from Egypt to the Promised Land, he said: Read More »
Our ||40days|| journey through Lent continues this fourth week with attention to the theme: ‘listen’. In previous weeks, we have looked at the journey of Lent, the need to acknowledge things in our lives, and then to turn from them. But what should we turn toward? If we are to turn away from sin, evil, distractions, and busyness, then we must turn toward something positive.
Hear Me, My people, and I will warn you – if you would only listen to me! (Psalm 81:8, NIV)
In the midst of our journey with Jesus, we must give our attention to the voice of the Lord. His voice is the one that we must harken to in the midst of so many other voices calling out for our attention. One of the greatest difficulties with the people of Israel that we see in the Old Testament, however, is Read More »