September 17, 2019 • Life for Leaders
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
In the last week, we have been considering how we might follow the counsel of Ephesians 5:16 by examining our lives carefully. So far, I’ve suggested we might do this in several ways: 1) by stopping; 2) without our tech; 3) each day; 4) on a retreat; and 5) through art. Today I’d like to suggest another specific way we might accurately take stock of our lives.
We will be helped to examine our lives carefully through relationships with others. Not all relationships serve this crucial function, of course. Casual friendships rarely enable us to see ourselves more clearly. And I don’t expect most of my colleagues at work to help me think about how I’m living. The relationships that augment self-awareness are those that are deep and lasting.
I think first of all of my relationships with my family members. My wife and children, my siblings and their families know me well enough to help me see things about myself I might otherwise miss. With them, I’m not putting on a show. I’m being who I really am, warts and all. Sometimes my family members help me to value good things about myself that I downplay. At other times they point to ways in which I need to grow.
Close friendships can also provide a context for self-examination. This isn’t always the case, of course. But friends who know us well and who are committed to our wellbeing can be invaluable encouragers of the kind of life examination commended in Ephesians. I think, for example, of friends who have offered priceless counsel during times when I have been uncertain about my vocation and occupation.
Small groups can also help us see ourselves in a fresh light. Some small groups don’t serve in this way, of course, either because they are focused on another task (like Bible study) or because the group is not a safe place to talk about what’s really happening in our lives. But when people in small groups are truly devoted to each other and to growing together in faith, then we can learn much about ourselves. A couple of years ago, I was in a small group as part of the Fuller Formation Group program. The members of my small group graciously helped me to see myself more accurately so that I might grow in new ways. Their love for me allowed me to confront things in myself that I otherwise would have ignored.
Sometimes the relationships that enable us to examine our lives carefully are with people who do this sort of thing professionally. Pastors, counselors, coaches, and spiritual directors can offer insight to help us grow. They can provide a secure setting for our own self-examination. For the last three years, I have been seeing a spiritual director on a regular basis. His wisdom and support have helped me to examine my life more deeply and truthfully.
To be sure, a crucial part of self-examination comes when we are alone, with our quieted hearts ready to hear from the Spirit of God. But God also speaks to us through others. And in deep relationships not only are we able to see ourselves more clearly, but also we are able to help others examine their lives carefully.
Something to Think About:
Who are the people in your life who help you to examine carefully how you’re living?
Do you feel the need to go deeper in one or more of your relationships?
What are those who are closest to you in life helping you to see about yourself?
Something to Do:
Sometime in the next couple of weeks, have a conversation with someone trustworthy about how you are living. If you’re in a small group, perhaps your group would like to have this kind of conversation together.
Gracious God, you created us in community and have saved us into community as well. Thank you for the gift of others with whom to share life. Thank you especially for those who have helped me to examine my life carefully. How grateful I am for their love, wisdom, and support. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online
Relationships and Work (Genesis 1:27; 2:18, 21-25)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.