Daily Devotions

Self-Perception is the Key to Spiritual Growth

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Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:16)

As a minister, you are blessed and cursed with the intimacy of knowing people’s stories. You learn the story of someone’s life from them, and those around them. It is interesting how many times our own story is different, depending on who is telling it. Learning to share the truth of our personal story is harder than it sounds. Learning to find our true perception of ourselves is important to developing spiritual maturity.

Perception is powerful. It shapes reality and determines how we understand the experiences in our lives. Zaid K. Dahhaj, in his article, “Why Your Perception Dictates Your Results” helps us understand the need to address our perceptions and who we are in this world. Dahhaj points out, “What I focus on will dictate what I see more of.” Our perceptions are controlled by what we think about. If we think about how weak we are, then we make that a self-fulfilling prophecy. If strong, then we will have the ability to face challenges with courage.

Yet, as Dahhaj points out, “My perception is subject to error.” Just because we think we are strong; doesn’t mean we aren’t weak. Unhealthy perceptions leave us lying to ourselves and others. Our perceptions help us evaluate the present and how to work on the future. While our perceptions will never be perfect, the more we learn who we truly are, the more we will grow emotionally and spiritually.

Today, prayerfully consider how you perceive yourself. Now think about how others perceive you. Do you believe there is a great disparity in views? The more we are able to perceive ourselves honestly, the better able we are to learn and grow in emotional and spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity often requires emotional challenges. Facing ourselves as we are can be humbling, even painful, but it is the way to a deeper relationship with God.

Spiritual Sensitivity

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This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. (John 14:17)

One of my favorite religious writers is Henri Nouwen. Nouwen was a Roman Catholic Priest, professor, and spiritual writer. Anything he wrote is worth reading. In his book, Reaching Out, he states, “The development of this inner sensitivity is the beginning of a spiritual life.” Figuring out how to develop this inner sensitivity is fundamental to our walk with God.

This inner sensitivity is developed through an interpersonal relationship with God. We are called to reflect on our actions and emotional responses. What triggers our anger, our passion, and our compassion must be addressed. Then, we focus on how God’s Spirit moves in the midst of our interpersonal relationships. The more we invite God into the daily dance of communication with others, the more spiritually sensitive we become. Is that communication helpful, supportive, inspiring, or unhelpful and even destructive? Learning what motivates us, what needs to be emotionally addressed, and where to find your strength is the spiritual life.

Think back to the major decisions you’ve made in your life. Who you married, what line of worked you decided on, how many children to have, what friendships you nurtured, etc.? Did others make those decisions for you, or did you take control? Why did you make the decisions you made? Can you articulate your reasons? What decisions am I facing at the moment and how will I address them? When you prayerfully ponder these questions, you are beginning an inner sensitivity. But you are still only halfway home.

Finally, what we need to do is listen. The reason why we need to develop sensitivity is so we can learn to be subtle enough to hear God’s still small voice. Today, prayerfully consider the big questions in your history and the questions you face today. Then, rather than force your own answers, just sit in solitude and listen for God’s still small voice. The more you listen, the more spiritually sensitive you become. Over time, you will become so sensitive to God’s voice, answers will come readily. Try it, it will work. Henri Nouwen knows how to create a spiritual life within all of us, but we are responsible to develop it within ourselves.

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