We are living the history that Ph.D. candidates will pull apart for years to come and the history junior high students will study for decades to come as one of the pivotal moments in our country and globally. This time will be studied exhaustively because this is a moment when everything changed: assumptions, how close we stand, schedules, how we work, where we work, a sense of security, how we do church, and how we love and serve our neighbor.
Over the past month, with the COVID-19 backdrop, in the Moses Project, participants have been asked to dwell in the big idea that self-awareness matters deeply in ministry, as it does in any leadership position. It matters deeply because self-awareness is understanding why we do what we do or why we avoid doing something we know we need to do. Self-awareness influences more powerfully than we may like to admit how we handle stress, change, innovation, uncertainty, and the slow birthing pains that are part of new life being born.
How do we develop self-awareness?
By minding the gap between what we think we know about ourselves and who we truly are. We develop self-awareness by knowing ourselves that comes when we cultivate rest, calm, still, and honoring Sabbath. God will bring to our awareness new insights about our ourselves as sinners in need of redemption and as saints loved and claimed by God through baptism. God wants us to know ourselves more deeply because true spirituality is about stripping away the falsehoods, ripping idols out of our hands, and driving us deep into ourselves that we are fully aware of our need for Christ. This is freedom to love and serve the Lord.
Furthermore, we become more self-aware by developing emotional literacy. Emotional literacy is the ability to know what emotion we are experiencing and to name it. Until we name a hard emotion we may be feeling – like grief, resentment, anger, anxiety – it will own us. Remember the wide array of emotions demonstrated in the Psalms – God isn’t afraid of our hard emotions. In fact, God will meet us in the midst of them because God brings healing and wholeness. What I mean by whole is integrated, complete – both the light and dark brought home into ourselves. Both sinner and saint are named as who we are.
We develop self-awareness by knowing how God has wired each of us with unique and specific constellations of core values that come from God to serve in the Kingdom. From time to time I’ll run into someone who believes that “being made new in Christ” means they essentially become a different person; that they cast out all of who they used to be in order for this new and ‘better’ version of themselves to show up. Yet, following Jesus, is about coming home to the Temple of the Holy Spirit that is one’s own body; that is one’s own core values, not envying the gifts someone else has but rejoicing in and developing the gifts God has given you. What if the spiritual journey isn’t about being transformed into something new and different but about being transformed into something new and familiar? In doing so, all the disjointed parts of ourselves are brought together in wholeness.
In years to come, we will surely be asked by younger generations what living in COVID-19 was like. In addition to talking about whole communities shutting down, scrambling for toilet paper, sewing masks, zooming to meetings, and becoming a televangelist overnight, I pray we will be able to say, “I learned a thing or two about myself during that time. It wasn’t necessarily easy but that self-knowledge changed how I showed up in ministry for the better. For that, I say thanks be to God.”