The great, ancient philosopher Lao Tzu said “Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.” And I would, arrogantly, add that the first step in mastering yourself is truly knowing yourself.
And that, my angels, is much more profound than what any of us might imagine.
Of course, this is what’s behind all the Divine Mysteries of the Faith; the confrontation with God which in turn teaches me about myself. This is especially true in the Divine Mystery of Confession. I get to exercise my will to choose to confront myself with my brokenness WITHOUT shame because I have been invited to this appointment with myself by God Himself Who does not reject me. He invites me to forgiveness and in embracing forgiveness I discover my best self!
Look at our lesson today in Galatians 5:22-26; 6:1-2:
Brethren, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another. Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
It is significant that St. Paul tells these Galatian Christians to “Look to yourself, lest you be tempted.” It is no mistake because to avoid temptation requires me to be attentive to my brokenness and my tendency to be asleep, until it’s too late, in giving in to temptation.
But what strikes me as very important is the listing of the Fruit of the Spirit. Looking over this list of what NATURALLY grows from a life filled with the Spirit of God, one discovers that all these manifestations of a Spirit-filled person are others-focused. And ALL of the traits we are taught to reject are all self-centered. Paradoxically, the self-centered life is crushingly ignorant of itself! And that’s because we were created in God’s image and He knows Himself as Persons in communion. We were made for relationships, and knowing myself is key to being filled with the Spirit AND being in communion with God and others.
It turns out that a Spirit-filled life is best grown and experienced in the attentiveness we embrace of God’s grace to help us know ourselves without falling into the trap of being focused on ourselves. But that can’t be accomplished without the humility of repentance and confession. Repentance is a great deal more than mere sorrow over mistakes or sins. It is the changing of my mind toward my own brokenness and the brokenness of others. I am to repent of the false notion that I am so broken not even God Himself can help me. I am to repent of the false notion that I have no brokenness. I am finally to escape, with God’s help, the false notion that my behavior changes God’s mind about me or disturbs His peace! I have no power over God, but I can exercise my will to bring myself, with all my brokenness and false ideas to God in confession and, WITHOUT SHAME, present my true self to Him for His grace to heal me!
The humility of an honest confession about who I really am, warts and all, makes the power of the evil one to constantly accuse me of being unworthy of God’s love to have no power to keep me from God and His love. Add to this the repentance that flows from humility and now I am a vessel emptied of all those false notions about myself and ready to be Spirit-filled SO THAT my life can produce the fruit of the Spirit-filled life.
But that all begins when I look to myself in honest confession and humble offering myself to God for His grace and His healing in my life.
Today, are you looking to yourself to avoid temptation? Do you even know who you really are? Or are you trapped in the twin delusions of either being too hard on yourself or too easy on yourself? Come to Christ today in honest confession and discover who you were really created to be! It all begins when you have the courage to be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Lord Jesus, You know me for who I really am. Grant me the grace and courage to abandon all that is not me for my true self; that person You created me to be. Help me to avoid temptations for a lesser life and fill me with the strength to look to You for my true identity. Amen