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Self-Examination is not Asceticism

This morning I woke up and did my morning routine. I spent some time in prayer, I spent some time in the Word, I participated in some group devotions with some other brothers in Christ on the YouVersion Bible App and got started on my day. I spent a few minutes on Instagram and Facebook just to see which way the wind was blowing and came across a meme that caught my eye:

The point I took from meme was that each one of us needed to self-reflect to ensure that WE were not the narcissist in question. However, as the responses began to come in, they reflected another perspective. Namely that other people are always the narcissists and we’ve got your number. But as the hypocrisy of the position began to sink into to me, I began to question my own motives for even posting such a meme to begin with. Then a very poignant comment came in… How do we know when we are being overly self-critical to the point of asceticism (self-harm).

I started my morning working training regime with some warmup. Timed drills accessing my weapon from concealment mixed with alternating striking drills on a heavy bag. After completing that I got busy on the harder work, ultimately culminating in my HIIT WOD:

Individual dumbbell cleans, both sides (25#)

Two hand dumbbell curls (2x25#)

Lying down tricep extensions (2x25#)

Lunges (2x25#)

Two hand exercises the reps count as one, individual exercises such as cleans and lunges have to be done each side (ie: left side + right side = 1 rep)

The reps start with 15, 12, 9, 6, 3. So you have to do all the exercises in order at 15 reps, then go back through again at 12 reps, then 9, then 6, then 3. You can rest whenever you want but the time limit is 10 mins for everything.

As I laid there in a puddle of my own sweat looking up in the quietness of my Chuck Norris Plywood Dojo, God had laid something on my heart which I later recognized was in reference to the question I had been given.

I’ve not gone further when I could’ve

I’ve not dove deeper when I should’ve

For yet as long as I live

I still have but one more thing to give

As I began to ponder this God began to unpack it for me as He brought scripture to mind. I’ve not gone further when I could’ve. There have been times when I could have given more of myself, more of my time, more of my resources to others. I recognize that and genuinely want to learn from it. I’ve not dove deeper when I should’ve. In Christianity we have a saying when trials and tribulations come your way, “press into Him, dive deeper into Christ”. This comes from Jesus’ words when He told us to abide in Him (John 15:4) and in so doing the fruit of our lives is evidenced in how we respond to others. These two verses of the poem He gave me represent the self-critical part of our reflection. There’s a reason why they are first. Because in nearly every situation WE have something WE could have done differently.

I am what is known as a turbulent-architect personality type (you can look it up here). It means that my thought processes are very analytical, and truth based. Sort of a “fuck your feelings” type of approach. This is something God has been tempering in me for some time now. But it also means that I am driven by my own failures. Which in turn means that I rarely learn a lesson without having learned it the hard way first. As a Christian this can be very disconcerting as my shortcomings are always before me, pushing me ahead. But it also means that I rarely make the same mistakes over (because usually I find a brand-new way to screw up…).

But as this condition begins to weigh down my spirit the second two verses come to mind. For yet as long as I live. This is a key element because it means that as long as there is breath in me, I have one more chance to dive deeper into Him. I have one more chance to allow the fruits of that relationship with Him to impact others around me. We all know people who were taken before their time. And this allows us to recognize our own mortality. But the fact that we live means that we have been graced with another opportunity. We are not owed tomorrow, nor are we owed even a single breath more. But He gave me one anyway, which means I’m not done yet.

The final verse hits home because we often see the best in ourselves when we give our resources but when we’re talking about our relationship with God, there is nothing we have that was not given to us and nothing that He couldn’t simply speak into existence anyway. But no matter how many times I fail, I still have but one more thing to give. My life, my heart, my focus, my attention, my love, my dedication.

Polycarp of Smyrna was a disciple of the Apostle John in the period of time immediately after the 12 Apostles passing. In a time when being a Christian was license to be persecuted he stood strong. Regardless of his past failures, he pressed into Christ and even after being tied to the stake to be burned alive he was given one more chance to deny Christ. To which he replied, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He has never done my injury; how then can I now blaspheme my King and Savior?”

We all fall short. To not self-examine is to not be a Christian (2 Cor 13:5, 2 Pet 1:10-11). But at the same time, its not a license to live in a manner of willful rebellion (Jn 15:4-6). We are to recognize our short comings, even if we be among the chiefest of failures (1 Tim 1:15), always looking ahead to Christ (Phil 3:13) and running the race. Because we have not yet fought to our last breath (Heb 12:4) but instead long to one day say, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race (2 Tim 4:7).

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