Critically self aware

Jason recently posted on the necesity of Christtians engaging in self criticism and some practical thoughts on how to engage in the process constructively rather than destructively. I admit it is something that I find particularly easy to do externally – comparing my best to others worst - but something I find a lot harder when it comes to being self critical of something close to my heart like the emerging church. To my mind I am hindered and hampered in being self critical by(at least) the following three B’s:

1. Blind spots – by definition I am unaware of the effects of this until I pull out into the fast lane and slam into something beside me which was hidden from my sight. Unless of course I look over my shoulder or have one of those curved side mirrors. But then that relies on me checking them!. So what are us emerging church people blind too? what can’t we see? what are we not aware of – are we focused on where we’ve come from and the journey ahead to see what else is round us? How can we extend our vision? How do we remind ourselves about other road users and are there some safe driving practices that we need to learn almost by reflex?

2. Biases – my experiences, views, actions, world view are all coloured through the glasses of my bias. As a student of history it has been drummed into me that every source is biased, each reflects a particular angle of the writer (for example, history is written by the victors). So this post itself is biased, coloured and prejudiced, as is the blog that I am posting in. Deconstructionism is one way of trying to strip out the bias but in my experience it can be a soul destroying process if taken too extremes. It is also worth thinking about whether all my biases, when deliberately chosen, are unhelpful, for example, my world view is biased by my faith my belief that God actively loves, cares and is involved in this world affects how I value and love everything connected with life . On the other hand if my bias is the result of basis of my life to date then maybe it would be helpful to seek out encounters, conversations, experiences, views, books, blogs and perspectives which challenge the basis of these views? In doing so it might reveal hidden blind spots or, if I find myself sinking uncomfortably out of my depth, where I am carrying excess baggage. What colour glasses do you think the emerging church wears and are there any helpful resources you have found that have helped you challenge or change the basis of your bias?

3. Baggage - I’m a very balanced person, I have a chip on both my shoulders! So I carry baggage and the emerging church sometimes gets represented as a refuge for Christians who have got fed up with the modern church. Is it just a caricature or is there some truth that it is a group therapy session to unpack, examine and carefully repack all our church baggage? Again sometimes it is unhelpful to throw the bags out with the bathwater, after all they have a storage purpose for journeys and God is the most amazing recycler. There is stuff packed in me that God has unpacked and used in creative ways – on the other hand I am aware that lugging excess baggage isn’t that helpful. So other than saying get over it or leave it behind what can we do all this stuff that we accumulate in life? What can’t I just see past, get over, move beyond? What is the elephant sized suitcase in the corner for the emerging church that we try to ignore but really is crowding out the space?

Self aware – the other side of the coin

“The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.” Nathaniel Branden

“Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I'm about; See for yourself whether I've done anything wrong— then guide me on the road to eternal life.” King David, Psalm 139

To be self critical I need to be self aware (in other words to be becoming aware of my 3 B’s) and to be self aware I need to be self critical (actually repeating the process of looking for these B’s). I also need balance though in order no to get self absorbed by my own baggage, biases and blind spots to make everything about me – where is God, what is he doing, revealing, challenging? What is healthy, good and growing? What season of life is it? Although sometimes it the time to retreat and reflection I also find that is often through deliberate engaging with God and the people I encounter on a day by day basis that I open myself up to be challenged and sometimes even changed for the better…

Paul Mayers guest blogger