Nosce Te Ipsum “Know Thyself”

(One of 147 Maxims inscribed on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, 

Circa 7thCentury BC)

Studying the Bible is the primary way to come to deeply know Jesus, but we also learn to know God more intimately as we study nature, others, and ourselves – God’s creation reflects the Creator. 

“Let us occupy ourselves entirely in knowing God.”~ Brother Lawrence

Not infrequently I’ve quoted the maxim of Delphi to suggest that self-knowledge leads to despair. Our focus, I said, should be on knowing Jesus, not others or ourselves.

I was wrong.

Or, if not entirely wrong, incomplete. 

God made a new covenant with humankind. A covenant is a binding agreement. This new covenant cannot fail because it is an agreement made in the heart of the Triune God. It is, one could say, a binding agreement God made with Godself. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, overflowing with love, redeeming the entire cosmos, including humankind – making all things new. 

Jeremiah 31:31 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more. (NRSV)

The new covenant embraces everyone – Jew or Gentile – all ethnicities, all nationalities, all abilities, all genders, all socioeconomic situations. Nations are but a drop in a bucket to God. God holds the high and mighty in derision. (Isaiah 40:15) Infinite, self-sacrificial, enemy-forgiving, omnibenevolent, omnipotent, omnipresent cruciform love overflows from the Divine Trinitarian Heart to all who are weary, all who will but come to Jesus. 

Love is the essence of who God is: “God is love.” (ὁ θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν – 1 John 4:8,16)

Every human is created in the image of God. Jesus died for every person. No exceptions. Every individual is precious and deeply loved by God. All are welcome. You are the beloved of God. Beloved is your core identity. 

Having come to Christ, we are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). We are seated with Christ in the heavenlies (Ephesians 2:6). We are temples housing the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)

Christ is in you. Getting to know you is one way of getting to know Christ. I see Christ in you. I hear Christ speak through you.

Christ is in me. Getting to know myself is a way of getting to know Christ. Much to my amazement, I sometimes see Christ in myself and hear Christ speak through me. 

God says: 

You shall be my people, and I will be your God. (Jeremiah 30:22 ESV) 

And:

I have loved you with an everlasting love.(Jeremiah 31:3b ESV)

“The most common form of despair is not being who you are.”~ Søren Kierkegaard

And yet, I often find that I am blocked from knowing myself. Something hinders me from really knowing you.

Often, that something is shame.

Shame is not the same thing as guilt or regret. Guilt is a gift from God. Guilt is the gentle tap of the Holy Spirit guiding, correcting me because my ship has sailed off course. Guilt prevents me from being grounded on the shoal. 

Regret is simply looking back over my life and being aware that I’d do some things differently if I could. Very occasionally, life gives us a do-over. Regret can teach us a better way.

Shame, however, is toxic. It is poison; it will literally kill you. Shame is condemnation. Shame is the venomous feeling that we are unlovable. It usually comes from early childhood experiences, and was typically conveyed by parental figures who themselves were shamed by their parents. Shame is often intergenerational. Shame leads to feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, despair, and self-hatred. Shame pushes away the love of God. Shame pushes away the love of others. 

Shame is contrary to God’s assurance:

Jeremiah 29:10 For thus says the Lord: Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14 I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. (NRSV)

The Great Physician of the Universe would like our permission to rid us of shame. But how do we excise, expurgate, purge deeply imbedded intergenerational shame?

I don’t know.

I have a ton of shame, but I am, I think, starting to learn how to draw out the puss. 

Learning to be vulnerable seems like an initial step. Being vulnerable means risk, being open and honest, setting aside pretenses and façades, ceasing to care what others think of me, and being willing to be exposed. It’s scary as hell. To even begin to be vulnerable, I must feel safe. I need to know you love me unconditionally and will stand by me. Some folks have no one like that in their lives other than God. So, begin with God. Be real. Share your base raw feelings. Then, find at least one person with whom you can be entirely open and vulnerable – perhaps a therapist, pastor, or chaplain. 

The next step is (I think) lining up my view of me with God’s view of me. After all, God’s view is correct. 

The Lord is our:

  • Father
  • Mother
  • Sibling
  • Shepherd
  • Redeemer
  • Creator
  • Sustainer
  • Healer
  • Provider
  • Lover
  • Light
  • Friend
  • Comforter
  • Guide
  • Salvation

God promises to:

  • Forgive
  • Rebuild
  • Restore
  • Be compassionate
  • Give us hope and a glorious future
  • Reward us
  • Remove all sorrow 
  • Never leave us

God says that we are:

  • Accepted
  • Embraced
  • Honored children
  • Beloved
  • Heirs 

My third step in ridding myself of shame: 

Each day, I spend 15 or 20 minutes sitting quietly, taking deep, long breaths, and repeating a biblical mantra, such as:

  • “I belong to Abba.”
  • “I am loved unconditionally by God”
  • “I choose to love myself as God loves me.”
  • “Nothing can separate me from God who is love.” 

I think it is working.

About Dr. Larry Taylor

Radical Anabaptist Jesus Freak Red Letter Christian, sailor, thinker, pastor, teacher, chaplain, counselor, husband, father, grandfather

Posted on August 23, 2020, in anabaptist, Bible, Bible Teaching, bodily resurrection, Christianity, creation, Jesus, Justice, Kingdom Life, kingdom of God, parables, Peace Shalom Hesed, Poetry, Prayer, Prophecy, Spirituality, The Cross, Worship. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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