Finding Faith: The Spiritual Discipline of Self Criticism/Reflection


Paul Mayers asked a great question following my post on self-criticism, how do we engage in that process in a healthy and helpful way. When I went to seminary to read theology I was warned about the danger of losing my faith. People do lose faith when they reflect at seminary. But they also lose faith outside of it. When faith is built on certainty, and we have no understanding of how to grow unless we know for sure, we're heading for trouble. Because one day life will happen and we'll be asking some questions.

Sometime we need to lose ourselves to find that sounds familiar. But how can we lose ourselves to Jesus in reflection of our faith, without having our very being stolen from us, and losing something of our souls. So in no particular order some things I think I do to stay sane, hold on to and grow my faith in this process, that help me take my reflections to the cross.

1. Mission:Is this helping me engage in mission more or less? If it causes me to withdraw from people in church and outside it, that's a warning light for me. Reflection might make me pause, might cause me to re-assess, but is it causing me to withdraw in my heart, soul, and with my body from others.

2. Faith: Reflection can take us to the edge of our faith, make us doubt, make our heads spin, lead us to be stuck with questions we have no answer for, and then we get to practice faith. Faith is not having answers, faith is taking my uncertainty to Jesus, taking my mind to the cross without certainty, submitting my mind, and thoughts to him. The risk of reflection is not losing faith, but in the submission of my reflections to Christ, and finding faith.

3. Accountability:See Mission above. Is my life open to others, who want the best for me, share in my reflecting, and questioning. People who will remind me that it is about Jesus at the end of the day and to get over-myself if I become too self absorbed.

4. Direction:Team up with other people smarter than me, who embody what I want to become. For me that's smart people who are deeply in love with christ, who can help me on the road of reflection.

5. Uncomfortable: Reflection should trouble me, make me uneasy, leave loose ends. In our happiness obsessed world, can I walk in faith with the lose ends gnawing at my mind and soul, and let myself be formed by christ. Being uncomfortable, out of my comfort zone, should be the normal condition of Christian reflection. The cage of self reference would seek to make me secure, and always correct. Will I trust the Holy Spirit to mold and shape and recreate me. See Faith above.

6. Tools: Scripture, Church Tradition, Reason. These three well know friends of reflection. Instead of submitting my reflections to the God of this age, of self, with the sacred measure of 'what I like', will I let Scripture Read me, will I let the traditions and beliefs of the church question me, and will I let reason, percolate it all. See 'accountability'.