At the beginning of the summer, I had a reflection due on Henri Nouwen's book In the Name of Jesus, in preparation for my summer internship (stop reading this and go buy that book right now!). Due to a lack of awareness about the deadline and an overwhelming amount of other work on my plate,
I almost tried to write the reflection without having read the book.
I read an online review of the main points, gathered the gist that a Christian Ed major would need to fake their way through a reflection, and started writing – ignoring the conviction gnawing at the back of my heart.
The reason I knew I could write the reflection in my own words and with seemingly insightful thoughts was because, humiliating and humbling as it is to admit, I'd done it before. I've had four years of Christian high school and three years as a Wheaton College CE major.
I know how talk the Jesus talk. You just use words like “journey,” “convicting,” “brokenness,” and “deepening my love for my Savior:” all without actually letting anything penetrate the callouses on my heart.
A couple sentences into my reflection paper, I stopped my typing short.
I was overcome.
It was bigger than conviction – this was a holy, terrifying fear.
What was I doing? And did I realize how dangerous this was, not for my grade or even my integrity, but for my soul?
I’m afraid – and I should be afraid – of going through the motions and then coming up with something “profound” for the sake of sharing my experience and having poetic language about “what the Lord did in my heart.” This isn’t a new fear or temptation for my heart.
I suspect I'm not the only Christian to ever face it.
It's part of what motivates short term missions, "savior" complexes, and being more concerned with posting about our Bible studies than actually praying into them.
I remember writing in a journal years ago,
“I think I’m afraid of getting to heaven someday and not having stories of Your work in my life.”
I know that it’s not about the big moments because I know what it feels like to see Jesus in a mom putting her child in a stroller, a country music song, or even the way you flush a toilet – it’s amazing, it’s life-giving, it’s mindfulness in living, and it allows you to feel the nearness of the Holy Spirit. The challenge is not looking for those kinds of moments to boost my sense of spirituality and self-worth.
I didn’t get fifteen pages into Nouwen’s book (after purchasing a copy and asking my gracious professor for an extension) without being convicted of this very point. Nouwen writes, “the more willing I was to look honestly at what I was thinking and saying and doing now, the more easily I would come into touch with the movement of God’s Spirit in me, leading me to the future” (13).
It's not about what looks good or even feels good – it's about where the Holy Spirit is moving and where I stand in step with that. It's always been more about simply loving than stories of loving grandeur and profundity.
When I'm living with a dangerous emphasis on "sharing my spirituality," every quiet time, every coffee date, every encouraging note, everything becomes fodder for my next reflection. I struggle to live in the present because I’m thinking about how I’m going to articulate what I’m feeling or learning later on. Or I don't see anything in the moment that feels worth remembering. The Enemy even uses reflection and contemplation, two very good and very beautiful things, to distract me from seeing what Jesus is actually doing in the moment, or to dampen His glory in it.
It’s not about living so you have something to share in small group, on my blog, or in my next CE assignment, but living to simply see Him move and captivate every piece of my heart —
— for no other reason than simply because it’s Him.
The point of the world is not to give me “material” for my next mentoring meeting or piece of writing. That’s not the point of my internship. That's not the point of my relationship with Jesus. Yet, how easily can we fall into that subtle scheme?
If I chose to hear it, Jesus is gently, graciously, and convictingly asking me to evaluate my heart everyday – why am I doing what I'm doing?
And who am I ultimately doing it unto?