Fully known

One of my spiritual fathers was recently teaching me about the importance of severe self-examination in spiritual development.  He soon came to know that I am WAY too versed in the art of severe self-examination, emphasis on “severe.”   I have a history of being a brow-beater.  I don’t know who coined that phrase, but it conjures up images of the self-flagellating saints of old.   I find their legacy more than a little distressing, but perhaps I walk more closely in their footsteps than I had realized before.

I do not believe that self-examination need be akin to self-condemnation, but at times these two have been inextricably linked to me–a natural pattern, a slippery slope, beginning with self-examination and ending with a short slide to self-condemnation.  I’ve become increasingly aware of this tendency, especially as of late, and it has been hard to remain in Jesus’ love.  You know, when a person struggling with self-condemnation realizes that she is condemning herself, what do you think is the natural response?  More self-condemnation!  Because after all, she feels like she should know better, etc.  And thus the sick cycle continues.

But frankly, I’m done with it.  I hate the deception of this voice.  I hate the self-absorbed pride that attends it and fuels the need to be strong and the desire to step outside of the grace of God.  I’m done!  It is a particular enslavement that has the veneer of godliness (an intense desire to do right) but is a little too close to pharisaical self-righteousness and self-justification–two things that rob the gospel of all power and beauty.  And it often acts like a virus, spreading its judgment not only to self but also to others.  The spirit of condemnation is a greedy bastard.

But how do I become free?  How do I silence the voice of self-condemnation?  I know already the answers that in the past I would have offered someone in my shoes.  In 20 years of ministry, I have amassed quite a repertoire of “answers.”  But so much of it now seems trite or shallow, like singing nursery rhymes to one who is questioning the meaning of life.  The old answers don’t fit the questions anymore.

So I may not know the answers, but I think I know where to start to look for them.  And it is a place again in 1 Cor. 13: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12).  First of all, I can only know in part, so the quest for answers is never-ending and may as well be enjoyed as a journey rather than a destination. This is so wonderfully freeing to me. “I don’t know” is always an acceptable and appropriate answer to God, because on this side of heaven that’s just the way things are.

But really it’s that last phrase, “fully known,” that haunts me.  It’s like a little mantra that I recite throughout the day: “I am fully known.  Fully known.  Fully known.”  Why is this so powerful to me?  Because it means that God knows me.  He knows everything that is dark in me and everything that is light.  He identifies me.  He recognizes me and knows all the unique markings that he gave me to make me ME.  And the real mystery (and miracle!) is not just in the knowledge but in the fact that he still loves me!  Fully known, fully loved.

And this place–this fully known and fully loved–is where I want to sit when I examine myself.  I think it would be hard–even for me–to condemn myself in this place.  The self-condemnation would feel so disloyal to the one who knows and loves me.  In some way, it would feel like a violation of all that he had done to secure this all-knowing love relationship with me.  And I honestly don’t think I could hurt him with words against one for whom he died, even if that person is me.

6 comments to Fully known

  • Julie

    Thank you for this entry.

  • Miriam H.

    As Michael Scott from “The Office” would say, “DONE! D-U-N, DONE!!!” I’m done, too, sister. I’m reminded of dear Ozzie, who writes on June 10th on Luke 11:9:

    “Humble yourself” – it is a humbling business to knock at God’s door – you have to knock with the crucified thief. “To him that knocketh, it shall be opened.”

    I think when the door opens, we walk into something that no eye has seen, no ear has heard. What is past is past, what is present is His glory–that which is everlasting. We are fully known.

    Besides, I know you pretty well, and I think you’re awesome.

  • Steph

    Thanks for sharing Leslie. I totally relate and though I I cannot yet fully internalize the message, I am hoping one day I will. Keep pressing on.

  • Jessica

    heh heh we have all of this in common…fully known and fully loved….!!!!????

  • […] (2) A monologue on severe self-examination (i.e. being a brow-beater):  http://www.mikeandleslie.org/2009/12/fully-known/ […]

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