How Does God See Us?

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAA second way to grow in our true and deeper understanding of ourselves is to pray with Scripture passages that help us to understand who we are: who we are created to be, who we are called to be. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is full of God’s understanding of who we are, God’s love for us, God’s invitation for us to grow into “other Christs.”

If we have been praying with the Scriptures for several years or more, we might find it helpful to look back at our spiritual journey and make note of the Scripture passages that were foundational for our journey in Christ. These key Scripture passages resonated with us in part because they told us who we are in God’s eyes, and how God is inviting us to become our best selves in Christ. Picking 5 or 6 of these Scripture passages to go back to and pray with can be very helpful in reaffirming our true identity: as children of God, as disciples of Christ, as sent by the Spirit.

For those who’d like, here is a short list of passages from the Bible that affirm our identity in God, in Christ. Please add your favorite passage to this list in the comments below, and I’ll add them in!

  • Isaiah 43:1-7
    God speaks to us: “You are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you.”
  • Psalm 139
    “O Lord, you search me and you know me.”
  • Ephesians 1:3-10
    “He chose us in him before the world began.”
  • Ephesians 2:4-5
    “But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.”
  • Zephaniah 3:17
    “The Lord your God is in your midst,
         a warrior who gives victory;
    he will rejoice over you with gladness,
    he will renew you in his love;
    he will exult over you with loud singing.”
  • John 15:15
    “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”
  • 1 Corinthians 6:19
    “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
  • Ephesians 2:10
    “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
  • 1 Peter 2:9
    “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

SeeYourselfCoverFor guided meditations on discovering who we are in God’s eyes, you can check out my book, See Yourself Through God’s Eyes: 52 Meditations To Grow in Self-Esteem.  You can also check out the app (free on iTunes, .99 on GooglePlay) or other free resources here.

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Discovering Our True Identity: Essential for Discerning

06 AA Sr EmmaualIf our “false self”—the self driven by sin and by a false identity—is sometimes our greatest obstacle on our discernment journey, our “true self” is one of our greatest allies in our discernment journey.

The closer we grow to Christ, the more we start to see the world, others, and ourselves, with the eyes of Christ. What is our true identity? As discussed earlier, we find our true identity in God. Two ways to come to a truer sense of ourselves immediately stand out: Seek self-knowledge and learn to see ourselves through God’s eyes.

1. Seek self-knowledge

Getting to know ourselves—without false vanity, without the shadow of sin—is true humility. Self-knowledge is often marred by two opposite tendencies—sometimes simultaneously. Either 1) we ignore our faults altogether and become prideful, attributing our gifts to ourselves rather than God, or 2) we fall into the slump of seeing ourselves too negatively, only seeing our faults and limitations.

Genuine self-knowledge comes through prayer, living reflectively (especially through the examen), and openness to discovering the truth about ourselves.

Humility is knowing ourselves as graced and weak, blessed and sinful. If we can become comfortable in this truth about ourselves, then we are much less likely to get in our own way on our discernment journey. Humility can be uncomfortable, especially when our illusory image of ourselves as overly powerful and in control is shattered. In these moments, it can be helpful to cling to God’s love, in which we can find the true anchor of our identity. Isaiah 43:4 is a great reminder: “You are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you.”

We can pray for self-knowledge to the Holy Spirit, asking especially for the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In his Confessions, Saint Augustine offers a prayer for self-knowledge: “Let me know Thee, O Lord, who knowest me: let me know Thee, as I am known” (Confessions, Book X). The following Petitions of Saint Augustine is a beautiful and powerful prayer that is helpful to pray regularly. I’ve adapted it slightly for today’s usage.

LORD JESUS, may I know myself and know You, and desire nothing else but You.

May I hate my [false] self and love You.

May I do everything for the sake of You.

May I humble myself and exalt You.

May I think of nothing except You.

May I die to myself and live in You.

May I receive whatever happens as from You.

May I banish self and follow You, and ever desire to follow You.

May I fly from myself and fly to You, that I may deserve to be defended by You.

May I fear for myself and [be in awe of] You, and be among those who are chosen by You.

May I distrust myself and trust in You.

May I be willing to obey on account of You.

May I cling to nothing but to You.

May I be poor for the sake of You.

Look upon me that I may love You.

Call me that I may see You, and ever and ever enjoy You.  Amen.

You Are…God’s Masterpiece! Lectio for Discerners

God’s Masterpiece

Discerning with the Word: A Guided Lectio Divina for Those Discerning

"St. Paul Writing His Epistles" attrib. to Valentin de Boulogne, c. 1618-1620

“St. Paul Writing His Epistles” attrib. to Valentin de Boulogne, c. 1618-1620

Introduction: We know that God’s invitations to us flow from our God-given identity. In this lectio, we pray with how God sees us, how God’s love shapes our very identity, and how God’s love frees us to be more fully ourselves.

Lectio: Ephesians 2:4-10

But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—  and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

Read through this reading slowly and attentively at least twice. Take your time with it.

Meditatio

Saint Paul’s dramatic encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9) completely changed Paul’s relationship with God from Pharisaism to experiencing the fullness of God’s love and mercy. By his baptism, Paul became a new creation in Jesus. Learning Christ, and living his new identity in Christ as an adopted son of God, led Paul to discover true freedom. No longer driven by fear or possessions, Paul belonged to Christ and trusted that nothing could separate him from God’s love and mercy. The extravagance eloquence of this passage demonstrates Paul’s amazement and gratitude to Jesus for his saving Passion, Death, and Resurrection.

Each of us who have been baptized can share in that journey from fear to trust and freedom discovered by Paul: we too are loved, redeemed, and sanctified.

As you re-read this passage, let yourself become aware that you are a son or daughter of God, that your very being is God’s awesome gift to you. Different translations of verse 10 into English range from the prosaic, “We are what he has made us” to “God’s handiwork,” “God’s masterpiece,” or “God’s work of art.”  Have you ever thought of yourself as God’s “work of art”? Do you believe that you are an heir of God, who will share everything with Christ as his brother or sister?

Contemplatio

Which phrase from this passage of Ephesians best describes how you see yourself? As you allow this phrase to “sink in,” how does it change your understanding of how God might see you? In your own words, how would you describe your relationship with God?

Oratio

The Work of Your Love – by Blessed James Alberione

My Lord, I am entirely the work of your all powerful love. I adore you, my God, one in nature and triune in Persons. I thank you, because you have made me for the happiness which lies in you and for your eternal glory. Save me with your love and your mercy!

Actio

Choose one way to act on your belief in God’s powerful love for you today.

My True Identity

In this series of blogposts about discernment, we continue to look at our life through a storytelling lens…beginning with ourselves as the co-protagonist of our lives (co-protagonists with God).

453px-Caravaggio-The_Conversion_on_the_Way_to_Damascus

Conversion on the Way to Damascus, 1601, Caravaggio

Who am I as the protagonist of my story? Who am I, really? What are the key events that have shaped my life? What important choices have I made so far? What are my deepest desires around which I want to base my decisions, plan my future? What do I consider my successes? my failures?

Each of us is a son or daughter of our families, and members of the human family. If we have been baptized, we also belong to the family of God, the Church. We are sons and daughters of God—adopted into God’s life.

And if we able to honestly and realistically look at ourselves (and this is not easy!) we will recognize great beauty and potential, but also great flaws and woundedness. We will see greatness and pettiness, openness to grace and attraction to sin. We will recognize that we carry both love and pride in our hearts, selfishness and generosity.

* * *

I used to not know this. As a teenager, I used to relegate the Redemption—Jesus’ suffering and dying—as  important background to my life. (Forgive me, Lord!) After all, I was baptized as an infant years ago, and I was grateful that I had been redeemed. But now I was on my journey toward holiness, and I didn’t need to keep going back to those ideas of conversion, sin, mercy, forgiveness, Redemption…

I look back and chuckle at how clueless I was—about myself, about human nature, and about my relationship with God. (One proof of God’s infinite mercy is that I’ve grown beyond this cluelessness!)

Saint Paul—one of the greatest saints ever—wrote, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Saint Paul’s entire life was shaped around the merciful love of Christ—the merciful gaze of Jesus as he forgave Paul for helping to stone Saint Stephen and persecute his first followers, the mercy of Jesus that revealed to Paul God’s great love for him in Christ. This was the merciful love that Paul constantly preached.

You might say that Paul needed conversion, but he wrote this years later, after he had already spent years of his life preaching Christ all over the world.

No matter where we are on our journey, even if we are baptized, live our faith in a dynamic and vital way, and earnestly seek God’s will, we will always, constantly, be in need of the mercy and grace of God to live out our truest identity—as human beings, as children of God.

This is where we need to start in our discernment, because the experience of God’s mercy is the foundation of our relationship with God. God creates us and loves us gratuitously: we cannot possibly ever do anything that would “earn” us God’s love. It’s in the midst of our unworthiness and even our sinfulness that we discover God’s immense love for us. God’s merciful love becomes the bedrock of our relationship with God!

Pope Francis, in his letter officially announcing the Year of Mercy (from Dec. 8, 2015-November 30, 2016), says this eloquently:

“Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us… Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to a hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.”

Pen_UncappedTo Journal About:

Answer the questions at the beginning of this blog post:

  • What key events have shaped my life?
  • What important choices have I made so far?
  • What are my deepest desires around which I want to base my decisions and plan my future?
  • What do I consider my successes? my failures?
  • Who am, really?