January 18, 2016
For many Christians, growth is about Bible study. Typically, this kind of growth happens through the use of an expert. We listen to a pastor on the radio. We watch a Bible study online or on the television. While a Christian can learn through these practices, this is not the ideal way to grow. Instead, God has shown us that we grow best when we personally take the time to reflect on His Word.
Joshua told the people of God to meditate on the Word day and night (Joshua 1:8). The psalmist said that he would “hide God’s word” in his heart to keep him from sinning (Psalm 119:11). God allows people to teach one another the Word of God. Yet He expects us to first learn the Word for ourselves. Learning the Word does not always entail academic study. Many times, God teaches through experience and His Word together in a practice called reflection.
God gives us the permission to see something from other angles, to gaze back, to consider the past. The people of Israel were always looking back to the Exodus event as a way to see how God worked in their lives. They reflected on God’s goodness through that event. But reflection is not just going through an experience and thinking upon it. Reflection happens when we experience something. We think back upon it and we learn about God and ourselves through the experience. Then we use the experience and the reflection as a way to improve ourselves as we go through the next experience.
The disciples in the Gospel of Mark 6 watched as they participated in the feeding of the five thousand families. They then went on a boat to reflect on the experience. However, after their reflective experience, they continued to fear. So they did not experience a better action or improve themselves. Many ways we are like the disciples. We do something. We think about and realize that we did wrong. But then we go back to doing the same wrong thing again. Many times it takes a significant experience (in this case, perhaps a trauma) for us to reflect and do a better action than the wrong thing we were doing.
We can learn to reflect during the good experiences as well. In Luke 2:19, Mary “pondered” all these things upon heart. She took time to reflect upon what was happening around her. Experience is not the best teacher. Experience which has been reflected upon is the best teacher.
In my own life, I am learning that reflection is a valuable teacher. I use reflection in personal Bible study. I read a set of passages. Then I choose a passage from which I reflect upon. Whatever verse strikes me as interesting or odd, I will choose to think upon it some more. I will write about my experience with that verse. I will re-engage in the story of the passage and write about it. Many times, God reveals to me a truth which I will use in a future experience. Many times, I am going through an experience when I come upon a Bible verse in which God speaks to me. He reveals something about Himself, His ways in which He wants me to see. God may also show something about me and my ways which He wants me to change. If I am willing and obedient to God during this time, the Word of God will help me grow through this experience.