As we said when we began these reflections, the writer of Psalm 139 was facing many challenges from unjust people and oppressors. In this context, a hymn of adoration was crafted, declaring that (1) God is always with us, (2) God's affections are towards us, and (3) we have a unique purpose.
In concluding this journey, the psalmist offers a prayer to God:
An Open Book
Vs. 23-24. Investigate my life, O God,
find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me,
get a clear picture of what I'm about;
See for yourself whether I've done anything wrong—
then guide me on the road to eternal life. The Message Bible
When life is difficult and we are in the midst of stormy weather or huge challenges, it is easy to become overwhelmed. It is also common to get caught up in blaming God and others for our circumstances. We tend to want to ask that every-hungry question, always searching for an answer -"Why!?"
In contrast, this spiritual pilgrim looks in the mirror and invites God to conduct some self-examination.
That's a good thing to do - for people and for leaders.
Business expert Jim Collins, in his extensive research on effective leaders, writes about what he calls a 'Level 5 Leader'. When things are going great, Level 5 leaders look out the window and give the credit to others. When things are going wrong, they look in the mirror and examine themselves as to what they can do better. In stark contrast, when things are going wrong, ineffective leaders look out the window and blame others. When things are going well, they look in the mirror and congratulate themselves. Ah, what a world of difference between these two kinds of leaders!
Many followers of Jesus have found it beneficial to have a daily time of self-examination. It is so easy to get caught up in the external world of what other people are saying and doing. There is great wisdom in first having a deep look at ourselves. After all, if you really want to change the world, change yourself first.
- Start a journal.
- Make use of a daily awareness examen.
- Take time each day to pause and reflect, asking yourself a few key questions.
- Find a good counsellor and talk through some of your personal challenges. Outside input with accountability can be truly life-transforming.
- Practice the art of authenticity. It is quite counter-intuitive, but you will find that vulnerability has a way of freeing us from the shame of our own failures.
We go about self-examination in a legalistic manner. God's Spirit never comes to condemn us (knock us down) but always to encourage us (lift us up). Condemnation is this general negative feeling of never being good enough while conviction is always specific and aimed at positive change.
Making our life an open book can be scary and even risky but when it is done in the context of an awareness that (1) God is with us, that (2) he loves us, and that (3) he has a purpose for our lives, it can be one of the most transformative things we ever do. After all, God loves us too much to leave us as we are. That's why the essence of life is never about what we have achieved but rather about who we are becoming. You may have already discovered that God is more interested in your character than your comfort :)
Be the change you seek.