A Refining Work
Examine me, O Lord, and try me; Test me mind and my heart. For your lovingkindness is before my eyes, And I have walked in Your truth. (Psalm 26:2-3, NASB)
Elite golfers evaluate and examine their statistics after every round. This feedback is valuable data that points to weak areas needing improvement. For example, 21 putts in a round is an exceptional stat. However, if it is paired with a score of 80, a more precise evaluation screams either a lot of missed fairways and/or greens. It’s important to celebrate the positives (the 21 putts), but if we don’t examine all the areas of our game and then do the hard work to improve those areas, our potential to become better golfers is stunted.
This need for examination and evaluation is even more critical along our spiritual journeys. If we truly want to experience authentic spiritual growth—to know and be known by Jesus—then we must ask the Lord to examine and test our minds and hearts. Experiencing the fullness of the resurrection life that Jesus offers in the here and now requires us to be open to honest feedback about our strengths and our weaknesses. And then we must allow the Holy Spirit to help us do the hard work for spiritual growth to bloom.
I believe there is something for us to learn from what is known as Lent, the 46 days leading up to Easter Sunday. Lent invites intentional reflection to consider the implications of Jesus’ death and resurrection in our own lives. Self-reflection requires us to slow down in order to see and feel what is going on inside us. It allows us to purge what is superfluous in our lives and increases awareness of what is meaningful. Self-reflection is more than exercising a routine. It sets a table where all of our emotions can dine: sorrow, grief, anger, desire, joy, hope, gratitude, empathy, compassion (and more). Self-reflection calls us to recommit to following Jesus with all our heart, soul, and mind.
David said, “Examine (prove, scrutinize) me, O Lord, test (refine) my mind and heart,” at a time when he was walking in integrity and trusting the Lord without wavering (see Psalm 26:1). When David moved into deeper examination of his heart, his pride, selfishness, and desperate need of the Lord’s mercy were exposed. As this awareness grew inside of him, despite his failures, he learned to lament, confess, receive, and rejoice in the Lord.
Self-reflection through examination and evaluation allows sorrow and grief to intermingle with faith and hope. Between now and Easter Sunday, consider giving up an indulgence that might be masking an ache in your soul that needs exposure. Make a commitment to meditate on one of the Gospel narratives. Or maybe you need to lament—to cry out in your sorrow and grief, asking Jesus to meet you in your heartache.
If we believe Jesus is the Christ, our Messiah, are we also willing to ask him to prove, scrutinize and refine our minds and hearts? Applying heat and pressure in order to scrape away impurities hurts, but what remains is more pure and beautiful than before.
February 22, 2018
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