“Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves….the knowledge of ourselves not only arouses us to seek God, but also, as it were, leads us by the hand to find [God]”
John Calvin wrote these words in 1536 (Institutes, I.1). He goes on to say that our very weaknesses and failings cause us to seek God — we are displeased with who we are and therefore seek our Creator and Redeemer.
We have two basic reasons for being displeased with who we are. The first is because we don’t like how God has made us. We may wish we looked different, or had a different personality or different talents. This is a rejection of who God has created us to be.
The second reason we can be displeased with who we are is because we realize we’ve fallen short of the glory of God. We just plain don’t like certain aspects of our character. Our sinfulness can create humility and repentance.
And sometimes one can lead to the other….
In my earlier post (O Lord, You Have Searched Me) I mentioned having taken many psychological assessments over the years. I often felt displeased with my results. I wished I were more extroverted. I was irritated that I shared more interests with research librarians than with most clergy (!). I lamented that I was so “conventional” and on and on….I rejected how God had made me (Psalm 139.14 comes to mind).
My rejection of God’s goodness in creating me opened the door for the Accuser to enter. Envy, jealousy, and dissatisfaction began to attack me constantly.
My rejection of my very created nature also led to depression as I constantly compared myself to others. At the root of my struggles and dissatisfaction was a lack of gratitude for how God had uniquely created me, a lack of trust that God could use me right where I was and as I was, and an inability to listen to God’s voice of love.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus….” Thanks be to God that as we seek him, we realize God has already found us. Thanks be to God that the very self-knowledge that can drive us to despair, or at least to a deep humility, can also be the beginning point of transformation.
What parts of your self do you celebrate? What parts are you dissatisfied about? How has your weakness become a strength through the grace of God?