Becoming Your Truest Self
Some years ago, I attended a weekend retreat called Understanding Yourself and Others. My wife had urged me to go after she'd attended and emerged with a kind of quiet confidence and peace I'd never seen in her before. I figured I'd give it a try.
It would prove to be one of the most formative experiences I've ever had---one that changed the course of my life and ultimately set me on a path that eventually led to my becoming a pastor.
I've been thinking a lot lately about that first retreat, and the subsequent retreats I attended over the following two years as an assistant and sponsor.
Today I woke up thinking about one of the instructors---a good and kind man named Dale, who was probably one of the most loving people I have ever met. He also taught me some valuable lessons about showing and receiving grace.
Dale once said that the key to compassion and empathy is the realization that every single one of us is doing the best we can with what we have to work with. We are all broken and beautiful and in need of grace.
I remember being asked to stare intently into a mirror at one point during that initial retreat, and to talk about what I saw. At that moment my words were harsh, raw, and full of self-loathing. It was painful to confront the images I had of me.
I came across this quote from theologian A.W. Tozer that captured that perfectly:
Most of us go through life praying a little, planning a little, jockeying for position, hoping but never being quite certain of anything, and always secretly afraid that we will miss the way.
As I write this, I am thinking about an encounter that Jesus had with a young man who came to him trying to find out the secret to an enlightened life. The young man had been doing everything "right," but knew deep down there was something missing.
Jesus didn't look on him with disdain. Jesus didn't chide him. Jesus didn't try to make him feel foolish. The Scripture passage reads, "Jesus looked on him and loved him."
Jesus then told the young man that the only way he would ever become his best and truest self was to let go of the fragile image he'd constructed of himself, and to surrender the false security he thought he needed to make himself feel better.
Getting down to the heart of the matter, Jesus showed him just how destructive his attachments had become. "Sell everything you own," Jesus told him, "Then give the money to the poor, and follow me."
Sadly, the young man then went away sorrowful. He wasn't able to confront his flawed self-image. He wasn't able to see himself the way Jesus saw him. He wasn't able to see his true worth.
What do you see when you look in the mirror? Do you see a broken, beautiful person who is enveloped in grace, loved by God, and becoming more and more yourself with every trusting step forward?
If you don't---then maybe you should look more closely. Because that is who you really are.
And once you get this, it will not only change the reflection you see in the mirror, it will change the way you see others as well---realizing they are broken and beautiful in their own way.
May we all take the steps we need to take to become our truest selves today and every day forward. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.