self awareness

Self Reflective Jesus

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. “Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’” Luke 17:5-10

Every time I read a parable I wonder where is Jesus, and this time I wondered if Jesus was the slave. Like the slave, Jesus works the “fields” and tends to “sheep”, and at the last supper he served the disciples with an apron around his waist. Could it be that Jesus is disappointed in his own self that in all that he has done to serve them, the disciples still ask for an increase of faith.

If the disciples were with Jesus this long, and their faith has not increased (which is the bare minimum that would be expected of a teacher) then I wonder if Jesus is disappointed himself?

Is Jesus disappointed that for all that he has done for the disciples, they are still seeking an increase of faith? That he thought the faith of the disciples was increasing only to discover in the question that perhaps their faith as not matured? That is Jesus was, at this point, unable to get the disciples to think about beyond just their individual faith.

Could Jesus be confessing, in his own Jesus way, that his ministry feels worthless because he was was failing to do “what ought to have done” - the bare minimum?

Is Jesus saying he feels worthless because he has only been able to do the bare minimum and not accomplish a greater mission in these disciples?

Am I frustrating Jesus because I am often interested in increasing my own faith at the expense of being interested in the greater mission of God?

Lord have mercy.

Feelings are data not directions

In a radio episode on KERA Think, Harvard Medical School psychologist Susan David shared a little insight about emotions. She said that emotions provide "data, not direction."

The point being, in part, that humans have evolved overtime with emotions that give us feedback on something going on inside of us. So if we are feeling angry, then it is our own bodies that are giving us data for us to use for self reflection. 

For instance, if you are angry that someone cut you off while driving you have the option to receive that anger as data or as direction. If you are a anger=direction sort of person then you may end up driving fast in order to tailgate the one who cut you off, or you may redirect your anger toward to dog at home and kick him for barking.

However, if you are a anger=data sort of person you may feel that anger and reflect on the reality that you are a person who does not like being disrespected of and you feel angry because someone's actions were disrespectful. This data may then lead you to consider if you want to keep getting angry at every slight or if you would like to do some soul work on dealing with why respect is so important to you. 

To live with the understanding that emotions provide data, not direction is to live more in line with the spiritual life. To put it another way, it is important to know who you before you know what to do.


Authenticity is the too Difficult, Give Me Plastic

Authenticity is a buzzword these days. Not that it is a bad value, but it is interesting that there is so much talk about something yet we all cannot seem to acquire it. In economic terms, there is a market for authenticity yet we cannot seem to meet the market demands. It makes one wonder if the decline of Church participation correlates with the rise of the "authentic" craving?

Many of my millennial peers are in pursuit of authentic experiences. Where previous generations may have collected stamps or baseball cards or porcelain frogs, many in my generation collect authentic experiences. We sit around and listen to one another's stories of travel. We brag about who has eaten the most authentic food types. We talk about what is "real" and what is "plastic". We compare notes on what new technology is rising in order to help us stay connected and (even better) give another platform for us to share our authentic experiences. 

Despite our expressed desires, we millennials are not good at authenticity in ourselves. We are just like any other generation that has come before us, we are more interested in finding our tribe (those who walk, talk, live and more like us) than finding authentic community. When our search for authenticity leads us to people that are just like us, we can be certain we are in a fabricated world full of mirrors pointed at ourselves. 

True authenticity requires that we engage with the world and not just our tribe. Because only when we engage with others that are not like us do we being to discover who our true "authentic" selves are. As Joan Chittister said in Wisdom Distilled From the Daily

"It is in community where we find out who we really are. It is life with another that shows my impatience and life with another that demonstrates my possessiveness and life with another that gives notice to my nagging devotion to the self. Life with someone else, in other words, doesn’t show me nearly as much about his or her shortcomings as it does about my own."

And so, if we really desire authenticity the first step is not to find those who are like us, but those who may not be like us. Authenticity does not begin with another, it begins within. Could it be that the desire for authenticity is not because we don't know if the other people or groups in our world are "plastic" or "real", but that we don't know if we are.