These last 18 months have been the most obvious testimony of God’s active involvement in this world that I’ve ever experienced.
I’m not sure if this is theologically accurate, but I was spiritually dead at the end of 2015. I had no idea that I was, I thought I was doing great, but I honestly had no idea about anything other than physical realities. I believed in God, but I didn’t have any kind of relationship with him. I lived a religious life, that maybe looked good on the outside, but there wasn’t much depth.
Without knowing it, I had huge walls up to God. Complicated, subconscious walls.
A huge part of this was that I had no idea about the significance of my “inner world”. My actions and behaviours were almost entirely controlled by subconscious fears, lies or beliefs that I was entirely unaware of (this is complicated, I’ll try to unpack it down below).
Last year, suddenly, almost without warning, God switched on a light. All these things started making sense in a way that I hadn’t even known was possible. I wasn’t clever, I had no idea what was going on. The only explanation that makes any sense to me is that God did a miracle in my life. Connections became clear, wounds started to be revealed. God’s healing hands were at work.
I say all this for a few reasons
- Maybe you feel a bit dead. Maybe your life looks ok on the outside, but below the surface you’re desperate for something more. I commend your honesty if this is you – I was never able to admit this was me until after I found some answers. It takes courage to move out of this place. I think that desperation is the first step to breakthrough. God wants to move in your life.
- God has been the ultimate catalyst behind any revelations of awareness in my life. He deserves all glory, and if you’re wanting to go on this radical journey, you’d better ask for his help.
- I know this is blunt, but I have zero doubt in my mind that you have some kind of wounding in your life. If you can’t see it, I think you’re either too blind to see it or too proud to admit it. Before this looks like pointing the finger, this wasn’t just me at the beginning of 2016, but me right now sitting writing this. I’ve discovered some major parts of my past, but I’m sure there’s plenty more I’m not willing to deal with quite yet.
My steps in self-awareness
Tool one: Map out your life
At the beginning of 2016 I enrolled into a leadership development bible college intensive course called impart. One of the very first things we did as a part of this group was to share the stories of our lives with each other.
It was a surprisingly revolutionary experience to slow down and reflect on my 23 years of life. The process of carefully writing down and then communicating my jumble of life experiences started to make clear several significant themes and issues that I had been suppressing or been simply unaware of.
I highly recommend watching this video called “The Power of Vulnerability” by Brene Brown if you have a spare moment.
Our “inner world” has been shaped by our past. In order to understand who we are, we need to be aware of our past. What are the significant moments of your past? Some of them could be strengths, transitions, patterns, surprises, moments that bring shame, etc
Make a map of your life. Maybe this could look like a timeline with major moments, or even just a jumble of dot points (I’m not organised enough for anything else haha). Be as honest and real as possible, writing the bits that are hardest to write might be the most important parts (If you’d like to see my example, send me a message).
As an extra step, once you’ve made a map, find someone appropriate to share your story with. If you can’t be vulnerable with them, don’t waste your time. If this doesn’t sound terrifying, then you’re probably not being honest enough. If this sounds terrifying, then I believe you’ll find some real fruit from it.
If you don’t have anyone in your life that has time to simply sit and listen, I’d love to buy you lunch and have a chat. Counselling is also such an incredible thing. I hope you don’t see it as something for the weak, it can be so rewarding in this process.
I have often returned to my map to draw links or write notes. After some time, I’ve started to be able to link major events together to draw out themes etc.
Tool two: Reflect specifically on your relationship with your parents, other authority figures or nurturing influences in your life.
How would you describe each of these people? How do you feel about them?
I have found it unavoidable that there are deep links between the images of our parents and the images that we use for God.
While I look back and see my parents as enormous blessings in my life, there has still been unavoidable wounding despite their best intentions. I look back at a variety of moments where discipline made me feel like I had to perform correctly to earn love, or misbehaving meant I deserved to be alone.
I know I often see God as some kind of cosmic policeman, or distant scorekeeper. These links are complex and worth exploring. We will never have a perfect image of God on this side of heaven, but knowing what influences us allows things to get clearer.
Tool three: Personality tests
I’ve shared these here before, but here they are again, Enneagram and Myers Briggs tests. The first time I used them, I found them interesting but largely unhelpful.
If you find them unhelpful I’ll bet you $10 that it’s because of either
- Mistyping yourself (I’d love to help you find one that fits)
- Not understanding the depths of these tools
It probably took me 6 months of slow irregular reflection before I really engaged with the Enneagram. My Pride massively got in the way. I didn’t want to be pigeon-holed and I wasn’t willing to actually read the material well.
Despite being pretty obsessed with Enneagram over the last 12 months, it’s only been the last month that I’ve really identified with a “type” and it’s been crazily revealing for me.
The (free) Test: https://www.eclecticenergies.com/enneagram/test.php
The site itself is very new agey (the test is free though!!)
The test gets shorter with each page. Should only take 5-10mins
A better Website:
It looks all fancy and has lots of information on it. Also has a “Compatibility with Other Types” section. It’s helped me significantly with some of my relationships!
I found this site to be pretty excellent:
(If you’ve found other tests to be helpful, I’d LOVE to hear about it)
For more on my reflections with these tests: What makes you unique?
Tool four: Spiritual Disciplines
Another part of Impart was experimenting with various “spiritual disciplines”.
At one point we spent 24 of solitude alone in the wilderness. But regularly we’d spend 4+ hours alone with God, just waiting, reflecting and ready to hear from him.
I cannot express how valuable these times alone with God were for me. While we are all different, over these hours, I would spend some time exploring creation, or simply sitting and writing. At first, it was extremely hard to just sit and wait for God.
I can’t say that I’ve ever audibly heard God speak to me (not sure if I can quiet my ADHD mind long enough), but he would regularly trigger certain profound thoughts or allow me to see connections in things.
Maybe you’d like to experiment with some other “disciplines”, here’s a list I found at another blog: http://www.soulshepherding.org/2012/07/spiritual-disciplines-list/
An assignment I wrote on fasting: Fasting kills Pride
“The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night … If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.” – John Piper
One of my favourite posts, I wrote on Hunger
1 Timothy 4:7-10 “Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people”
My hope for all these tools is that they may help you identify barriers that we all have against God. When we can deal with our past in a healthy way, may we be able to move towards God as our hope and joy.