“O wad some power the giftie gie us: To see oursels as ithers see us! [Giver give us—others]
It wad frae monie a blunder free us: And foolish notion” [from many]
(To A Louse, Robert Burns)
The power is divine. The “giftie” Giver is the Holy Spirit. One purpose of Great Lent is self analysis. “Know yourself!” That command is given in most religions and is demanded of all Christians. And to do that, one must sort out how much of oneself belongs to Jesus Christ and how much is egocentric. We may not like what we discover. We may deny, ignore or reject the evidence of who we are in the sight of God. Like Oedipus who blinded himself when he discovered he had killed his father and married his mother, the revelation may upset us; nevertheless, it is a precious and essential element of salvation.
The challenge is to be objective when we are ourselves the subject of evaluation. How are we to explore the feelings and emotions that we rush to defend instinctively? Why are you the way you are? To see ourselves as others see us? We react with “Yes, but….” Guilty with explanation, as in traffic court. It is the natural reaction—but the insight from the Holy Spirit is spiritual. No need to defend or explain, only thank the Spirit for revealing our souls to ourselves before it’s too late to repent and change. You resist criticism, but who is doing the criticizing? Not family and friends. They love, understand and even accept you, faults and all. Not your confessor. He only listens and suggests. Your conscience is crying out to you.
You are the one. When you are squinting into the microscope and you are the specimen on the glass, what do you recognize? If you cannot diagnose your own symptoms, how can you figure out what’s happening in your soul? You justify your behavior: “I am who I am,” you retort—but that’s not acceptable. Only God Almighty can define Himself that way, because He is eternal. He never changes or has need to. But by definition, you as a human being are always in transition, or on the Way, as the Bible puts it. As in Psalm 8:5, “a little lower than the heavenly beings, and crowned with glory and honor.”
The obedient child always dressed and ready to ride to Church suddenly wants to stay in bed Sunday morning. The mother who was always at the center of the family, the motivator who made nearly every decision for all the others, who always fed, dressed and kept the household in order, all at once becomes helpless and self-pitying, pleading for attention yet never satisfied. The handsome, self-confident goal-oriented bridegroom with enormous potential evolves into a grumpy, defensive and hostile elder. Why? The student who won honors in high school drops out of college with no apparent reason, losing all purpose or direction and refuses to talk it out with the parents. The recent unemployed stays away from home, deciding it’s no use looking for a job any longer. Where he spends his days is a mystery. They all avoid self-analysis, and yet that’s the one thing necessary.
Much behavior can be understood as heritage from our genes. Tendencies we take with us to the Kingdom. We live in a time of historical and social transition. We must deal with it as best we are able. But our Lord Jesus Christ orders a transformation that He paid for with the cross. Yes, it’s difficult, but not impossible. The first order is to recognize who we are, try to perceive how we got that way, if indeed that helps, and then more importantly, put behind us the old Adam and follow Him, the new Adam, through this world by the grace of the Holy Spirit. He is effecting a real and permanent change that demands repentance, forgiveness and life in the Spirit. Great Lent is the time when we, by the grace of the Holy Trinity, make that happen.