The last few weeks I’ve been circling back through David Benner’s work, The Gift of Being Yourself. I read it in February and it’s one of those little books that has left a lasting mark on me – because it’s sown some seeds in my life that I am wrestling with and am grateful for. Rather than trot out quotes over a long period of time, I thought I’d put some here to read and as an encouragement to get the book and read all 104 pages. Slowly.
Little book, big truths that seem simple to comprehend – which is why I keep re-reading and trying to remind myself that I don’t get them fully yet.
And I’m grateful Jesus is patient with me, and you. Enjoy. -MK
“Relationships develop when people spend time together. Spending time with God ought to be the essence of prayer. However, as it is usually practiced, prayer is more like a series of email or instant messages than hanging out together. Often it involves more talking than listening. It should not be a surprise that the result is a superficial relationship.The starting point for learning to simply spend time with God is learning to do this with Jesus. Spending time with Jesus allows us to ground our God-knowing in the concrete events of a concrete life. But how do we actually do this? We do it by means of Spirit-guided meditation on the Gospels.” (37)
“There is no substitute for meditation on the life of Jesus if we seek to ground our God-knowing in the Gospels. Listening to sermons and reading the Bible provide information about Jesus, but this is not the same as a personal meeting of him in the events of his life. Meditation ought to be a part of the prayer life of every Christian who seriously seeks to genuinely know God. The Gospels provide wonderfully rich opportunities to meet Jesus, once we learn how to use them in this manner.” (40)
(listen to this podcast for an example of meditation on the Gospels)
Many “learn to discern God’s presence by first looking for it in the rearview mirror. That is the value of a prayerful review of the day—something I have elsewhere described as the daily examen…The goal of a prayerful review of recent life experiences is not self-analysis. The point is not to peel back the layers of the onion and find some problem or meaning. Instead the goal is simply increased awareness of God in the events of life and the depths of my being. It is attending to the God who is present. In general, “what” questions (such as, What was I feeling? What disturbed me about that comment? What exactly made me anxious?) are better than “why” questions (Why did I feel threatened? Why did that bother me”). And avoid making demands of yourself or God. Just accept whatever comes from each experience, each day.” (43)
As you journal, do the daily examen (prayerful reflection), “Note your thoughts, reactions and feelings and then five them up to God. The point is not analysis but identification and release. Note them for what they are and then give them to God. Self-knowledge is God’s gift, not the result of your introspection. Remember, this is not self-therapy. It is spending time with God and allowing God to meet you and help you know yourself as you are known” (68)
“Christians affirm a foundation of identity that is absolutely unique in the marketplace of spiritualities. Whether we realize it or not, our being is grounded in God’s love. The generative love of God was our origin. The embracing love of God sustains our existence. The inextinguishable love of God is the only hope for our fulfillment. Love is our identity and our calling, for we are children of Love. Created from love, of love and for love, our existence makes no sense apart from Divine Love.” (46)
“In order for our knowing of God’s love to be truly transformational, it must become the basis of our identity. Our identity is who we experience ourselves to be—the I each of us carries within. An identity grounded in God would mean that when we think of who we are, the first thing that would come to mind is our status as someone who is deeply loved by God. With sadness, I confess how seldom this is true for me. Although I have always wanted to avoid being defined by my professional role, when asked to introduce myself, I am likely to resort to the common social practice of trotting out vocational designations. But, even more telling, if my self-esteem is threatened and I feel my identity to be a bit vulnerable, my almost automatic first response is to think of accomplishments or present and future projects. What this tells me is that much more than I usually care to acknowledge, my identity is based on what I do, not who I am.” (47)
“If God loves and accepts you as a sinner, how can you do less? You can never be other than who you are until you are willing to embrace the reality of who you are. Only then can you truly become who you are most deeply called to be.” (54)
“My longstanding investment in being respected has been an attempt to control my environment and guarantee the sense of specialness to which I have become addicted. The bondage in any false self is bondage of having to keep up the illusion. I am not simply an overachieving good boy. I am not my accomplishments. The things I can do or have done do not make me special. In fact, the attempt to define myself by my accomplishments is as boringly common as it gets! (79)
“My compulsive pursuit of accomplishments and the respect of people who are important to me suffocates the life of my true self. It binds and inhibits my growth and restricts my freedom. It is important for me to remember I am a human being, not a human doing. My worth lies in who I am, not what I can do or how I am seen by others. This is the truth of my existence.” (79)