The lights are up, the stage is set. You are ready for this moment, you've been preparing and now the nerves are humming but so is the circuitry of excitement. Everything falling into place, this moment has been coming for a long time and you know you are ready.
You enter. You take the stage.
Perhaps it's a conversation, a speaking engagement, a huge interview or presentation, or just a confrontation that has been a long time coming. You stride in confidently. You say what needs saying and you feel that sense of accomplishment. The heavens open. Doves descend. Oz turns to color.
Then, inexplicably you walk towards that person closest to you - the person with the rights to visceral honesty and they look at your face. Then they tilt their head ever so slightly to the right, narrow their eyes, and lean in towards you.
"You've got a little piece of spinach right here," they point to the canine and incisor area where rebellious food always seems to congregate. Big moment becomes uneasy in a queasy stomach riding the waves of revelation.
We all have gaps. Things we can't see in ourselves that change who we are. I'm not talking about an unattended zipper or chunk of spinach, but those places where other people can cleanly see the lack of transformation in us where we see only perfection. Planks appear while we hunt for specks elsewhere.
Dr. David Benner in his book The Gift of Being Yourself gives three diagnostic questions* to help us see the blessed opportunities for transformation that lie just beyond our ability to see. They are the great spiritual "spinach locators" so to speak.
1. What are our pet peeves?
"If laziness in others is what really bothers me, there is a good hcance that discipline and performance form a core part of the false self that I embrace with tenacity." We'd be well served by looking at the things that concern us about other people in order to discover things within us that are unhealthy or distracting to our true life in Christ.
2. What are we protective or defensive about?
When we are questioned, do we react with a "What do you mean?" or an aggressive "Of course not!" There are times when these defenses come quickly because the question or suggestion is dead on the mark. If we find ourselves annoyed or irritated, it is helpful to ask why we're so defensive in the first place. Is this an area of blindness for us that defensiveness simply brings to light? What do these areas say about our formation into Christlikeness?
3. What pattern is there to our compulsions?
All of us have compulsive behaviors - things we do without really thinking - but examining patterns helps us see things that we have lost objectivity toward. Workaholism, perfectionism, extreme orderliness or cleanliness, etc. are all patterns of compulsions that reveal places where we are insecure, hiding, or protecting ourselves from someone or something. Benner says, "They often involve a good that is elevated to the status of the supreme good by disproportionate importance we attach to it." Translation: too much of a good thing can hide destructive things. Are we abusing the good and in the meantime losing our way with God?
Take a few moments this week and write these three questions on a legal pad or type them out. Reflect on the last few weeks - have you been defensive? Where and why? What compulsions came to mind in #3, and why? What are your pet peeves? Do they reveal something deeper?
I believe the Spirit of God is calling us all to use these questions to allow Him to search us and know us (Ps. 139:23) and to ultimately "mind our gaps."
(*courtesy of Klaus Issler, Living Into the Life of Jesus. p 44)