The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.
-Proverbs 20:5 (NIV)
Sisters and brothers of St. Andrew’s UMC,
I am a “details kind-of-guy.” In fact, throughout my ordination process, I’ve had to take five personality, psychological, and/or leadership questionnaires/tests. Every one of them notes I am detail-oriented – it would seem me mentioning the “five tests” epitomizes this characteristic! I love details! As I write this, I just finished interviewing with a psychologist about my last test.
Thomas Merton (Catholic monk and prolific writer of the 1960’s) once wrote, “There is only one problem on which all my existence, my peace, my happiness depend: to discover myself in discovering God. If I find [God] I will find myself and if I find my true self I will find [God]” (New Seeds of Contemplation, 35-6). “If I find my true self I will find God.” After so many tests that supposedly tell me who I am, I’ve always wondered if they’re actually right?
The last psychological assessment I took (on August 23rd, details!) came back with an eerily personal and strikingly accurate caricature of who I am, but it didn’t really say who I am. My true self is not something that can be labeled by a few paragraphs – actually it’s much simpler than that. Please don’t misunderstand; I’m extremely grateful for the assessment. The test is valuable to help me reflect on how I conduct myself as a person, pastor, and leader, but it isn’t who I am.
Who I am? What is my true self? Inspired by the words of Merton, I have spent a great deal of time contemplating these questions over the past year of my life (actually to be exact it’s been since January of 2017, details!). In meditation and prayer, though, the answers to these life-long questions have never been “detail-oriented” or anything else of the sort.
If I find my true self I will find God. My true self, the essence of my being – and of yours and of everyone – isn’t something that can be tested. If you can handle the cliché, our true self is divine love rooted in the image of God. Taping into that love is the task of a lifetime – and of daily importance (for me: pure silence and walks in nature help me slow down and lead me to “see” God in many forms). Finding our own path to live into that divine love, to show that love, to be that love – that’s what life is all about.
How we define ourselves says a lot about who we are. We can start with a long list, or we can start with the essence of God – God is love (1 John 4:8), and we are all made in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26-27). With such a definitive statement, I admit, I may very well be wrong. But I’d rather strive to live into an image of divine love than a whole list of human characteristics. How about you…who are you?
The first Sunday of October is always World Communion Sunday. World Communion Sunday started at Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, PA, in 1933. It was designed “to bring churches together in a service of Christian unity – where everyone can receive both inspiration and information, and above all, to know how important the Church of Jesus Christ is, and how each congregation is interconnected one with another.”