You Aren’t Who You Think You Are

MIRROR, MIRROR – YOU AREN’T WHO YOU THINK YOU ARE – SERMON RESOURCES

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ENGAGING THE PRACTICAL TIP

On the face of it, knowing who you are should be the easiest thing in the world to do. You should be the expert on you. You’ve known yourself your whole life! You know more about yourself than anyone else, right? You know your likes and dislikes. You know how you feel in every situation. You are the master of you, right? Maybe not.

It’s physically impossible to see our whole self without the help from another. You can’t even see your whole body without aid or help. And the most identity-bearing part of us, our faces, are completely hidden from us without help, and even then it’s an incomplete disclosure, it’s just a reflection, whether in a pool of water, a mirror, or a photograph. And everything we see, it’s through a lens: it’s the people around us that define who we are. Our self-image, our self-understanding, and our identity are affected by so many other things: our family of origin, birth order, ethnicity, race, culture, height, weight, overall appearance, and our self-esteem.

Sooner or later, we have to look outside of ourselves in order to start to see ourselves. The art of being ourselves requires a mirror. And this is exactly how the scripture sets up the art of being yourself. We are presented in the Bible as a reflection of the divine.

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

And the amazing part is, it works both ways, in a very real sense, God is not visible in the earth apart from us, and we aren’t visible to ourselves apart from God. The art of being yourself isn’t a solo endeavor. God knows us better than we know ourselves and helps us discover ourselves in the process of our discovering him.

Simon, Will You Help Me?

We see this best illustrated in the life of Simon Peter who had this encounter with Jesus:

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. (Luke 5:1-3)

Simon and his partners (James and John) were out all night fishing. They were knowledgeable about the working conditions of their trade. They had probably mapped the entire lake, knew the best spots, and after a night of fruitless work, they were all too ready to head home for day. This is where we encounter them, washing their nets. Crowds having followed Jesus grew too large for him to be heard and knowing that sound travels seven times better on water, Jesus turns around, sees the boats, enters one, and asks that the owner take him out. Jesus says, “Peter, I need your help!” In this request, this invitation, Jesus is communicating something of value and worth to Simon. Jesus was saying, “I trust you. I believe in you. I know you. ” All of that in a simple request: “take me out a little from shore.”

Simon, I trust you. I believe in you. I know you.

Simon, Jesus knew, was a good fisherman. He had a command of his trade, skill, and ability, and Jesus knew something about Simon that Simon didn’t — he was more than this vocation. Often, when we are in new settings with new people, and we are asked about ourselves, we limit ourselves to what we do for bread, not who we are. At our core, we are a reflection of the imago dei, the image of God. We reflect the complexity, creativity, and joy of a creator who loves us and sees us and wants us to discover our true identity in him. Discovering who we are is an unfolding adventure of understanding ourselves in relation to each other and understanding a God who sees and loves us. This will take time —it will unfold slowly. It will involve both success and failure, good and bad decisions. This extends beyond mere change, it’s more like transformation or transfiguration.

EXPERIENCE SIMON’S JOURNEY TOWARDS SELF-DISCOVERY

For the practical tip, turn to Luke 5:1-11 and take some time to quiet yourself in God’s loving presence. Make sure you are in a comfortable position and focus for a few moments on your breathing. Close your eyes and ask God to take the words of Scripture and by the power of the Holy Spirit, make them God’s Word to you. Ask for the gift of a few moments of Spirit-guided imaginative encounters with Jesus. Then slowly read the following passage, preferably out loud. Listen for a word or phrase that stands out to you.

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:1-11)

Read the passage again for a second time. Now allow yourself to daydream on the situation presented in the story. First picture Simon returning from a long day at work without any success or results, frustrated, irritated, disappointed, mad. Then, as if you were a spectator, observe the events as they unfold. Watch, listen, and stay attentive to Jesus. Don’t be distracted by all the details of the story, focus on Peter and Jesus. As you do this, become present to Jesus and open yourself to your own emotions, concerns, and reactions.

Read the passage a third time and speak to God about anything that has stood out to you. Share with God any thoughts or emotions that the Scripture passage evokes in you. Listen for what God may be saying to you.

Feel free to share your experience with others who have also tried this prayer exercise by commenting below or emailing: spiritual.practices@annarborvineyard.org.

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