(This short article was written for the April edition of InterVarsity “About Women” staff website, therefore only available to InterVarsity staff!)
Growing in Self Clarity
The first time I directed a conference, even though it went well, I was left with bitterness, exhaustion and loneliness. Despite enjoying a growing ministry, I felt engulfed by demands and 70-80 hour workweeks. Driving home with my boss Bobby, we talked about how I felt driven by my “life parable,” the parable of the talents, compelled to use the two talents God had given me and turn them into four.
“I think you need a new life parable,” said Bobby. “Maybe the parable of the vineyard where everyone works a different amount but gets paid the same?”
“But I hate that parable – it’s so unfair!”
Bobby grinned, “Even more reason that might be a good new life parable!”
In that moment, Bobby helped me question my theology, my motivations and my orientation towards God — an essential moment of self clarity.
Using Pots of Clay
As women, investing in self-clarity can feel self-indulgent. Because we so easily lose ourselves in our roles — mother, wife, sister, daughter, staffworker, supervisor, friend — we can forget that God created us as individuals for Himself. We can forget that Jesus seeks to know us, like the good shepherd looking for his lost lamb,. In the process, He helps us know ourselves as well.
As InterVarsity staff, the primary instrument we bring to campus ministry is our whole self – our ethnic and gender identity, gifts, motivations, sin patterns, and life-stage. We are complex creatures who reflect the glory of God’s image as well as the notoriety of the fall. Our hearts are deceitful beyond all things (Jer. 17:9) yet God chooses to use our leaky little pots of clay (2 Cor. 4:7) to pour out the good news of Jesus Christ. The better we know our instrument, the more we continually grow in self-clarity, the more God can use us.
Here are some spiritual disciplines to help us grow in self-clarity:
- In Examen we ask the Holy Spirit to help us look at our actions and motivations each day with honesty, patience and grace. We look for the work of God, and our response to God’s action, responding with thanksgiving, penitence and petition.
- In Community, if we are brave enough to risk hard conversations, we can learn how we impact others, both positively and negatively. We often learn our hidden sins from those we have power over more than those with power over us, which is why 360 reviews are so helpful. Honest talks with spouses, friends, students, and colleagues are all ways to get helpful feedback.
- Learn everything we can in Conflict. The older we get, the more we have the same conflicts. This is a sure sign that God wants us to work on some sin pattern or brokenness within us!
- Personality Tests OK, maybe these aren’t spiritual disciplines, and I admit I’m a personality test junkie. But tools like Myers-Briggs, DISC, Enneagram, Strengthfinders and SIMA have all been incredibly helpful in understanding myself, how I work with others, and how I can grow. They’re a perk in IVCF, so take advantage of them!
What am I still learning almost 20 years since that conversation with Bobby? I am not a workaholic. Neither am I a perfectionist. Instead, I’m a responsibility driven woman with a significance addiction that came in part from the way I was raised by Chinese immigrant parents. I am complex. I am broken. I am juggling a lot with 3 kids and a husband. And all that has implications for those who live with me, work with me and love me. But as I grow in self-clarity, which always leads to humility, the glory of God shines from the cracks of my clay pot.