Awareness – Pulling Back the Curtain of Your Life
Last week we kicked off Freeway by looking st two things: Freedom and Invitation.
Using the metaphor of a train on tracks, we recognized that Freedom is about becoming who we are in the image of God…..not jumping off the track to do whatever we want because that just makes us a free wreck of a train. True freedom is not about insisting on our own way, but about being free from the kinks in our lives – free from the things that keep us from becoming all that God made us to be, free from those things in life that would block God’s Grace in our lives.
One of those big kinks has to do with our identity: who we are and whose we are. You see, we have a tendency to forget who we are…a lot like the runaway boy in the story of the Prodigal Son. We have a tendency to take what’s ours and wander off, run off, with our lives to do what we want. And most of the time we find that life is not as we thought is would be. For some of us we are eating metaphorical pig slop in our lives just that the prodigal son and longing to come home to something real and meaningful and sustainable and life-giving.
The good news is that God extends an invitation to each of us. The invitation is to stop running and come home…His arms are wide open. Her eyes are filled with tears of love and joy st the sight of us.
Today, I want to focus in on one verse of that Prodigal Son story. I don’t do this very often, but today I want to look closely at just one verse. And I want us to reflect together on it.
When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have more than enough food, but I’m starving to death! – Luke 15:17
He came to his senses. Literally in the Greek, this reads: having come to himself; having returned to himselfhaving appeared to himself.
In other words, he became aware of something about himself that he had not previously known. He had an epiphany, as he thought about his life a light bulb went off. He became self-aware!
I wonder….how aware are you? How aware am I? The truth is, we may never really and truly run home to God if we never have that moment of awareness when we, like the prodigal son, come to our senses, where we truly appear to ourselves
So let’s think about this a minute….how aware are we, really?
Watch the video below.
Now if someone came to you and said, we have to fix the bear epidemic in this community. You’re thinking, there’s no bear. There’s just kids passing a ball. What we really need to work on is their ball passing skills, some pretty lazy passes going on there. You never saw the bear, so of course you dismiss it!
Let’s try one more…
If someone came to you after watching this and said there is a thief on the loose and we need to catch him, you would dismiss their claim. No evidence, right? There’s a murder that needs to be addressed, not robbery. You’re focused on the thing that already happened and you miss what is happening right before your eyes…because you aren’t aware.
You see, awareness is key! Awareness is key to the change we want in our lives. It is key to discovering freedom.
If we want to be free from depression, disappointment, frustration, unworthiness, financial stress, loneliness, fatigue, superficiality, doubt, anger, despair… If we want to be free of anything, we first have to become aware of our thoughts and feelings, aware of where they come from, aware of our life.
Because you can’t do something about something you don’t see.
Let me explain it this way:
There was a technique developed by Sakichi Toyoda ussed within the Toyota Motor Corp. during the evolution of its manufacturing methodologies. They were looking at causes of engineering problems. And they found that the initial problem they discovered was rarely the proper fix. They had to find the root cause of the problem to successfully fix the problem. And they came up with a process of asking why. For any given problem, engineers would ask “Why?” not once or twice, but at least 5 times.
For example, a welding robot at Toyota stops in the middle of its operation. The questions begin…
- Why did the robot stop? Well, a fuse to blew because a circuit overloaded. They could replace fuse and fix the problem. But they kept asking why.
- Why is the circuit overloaded? It turns out there was insufficient lubrication on the bearings, so they locked up. They could increase the lubrication, but they kept digging.
- Why was there insufficient lubrication on the bearings? The oil pump on the robot is not circulating sufficient oil. Again, they could replace the oil pump, but…
- Why is the pump not circulating sufficient oil? The pump intake is clogged with metal shavings. They could clean the pump intake…(you get the idea, right?)
- “Why is the intake clogged with metal shavings? Because there is no filter on the pump.
If you stop at any point before the root cause of the problem, you don’t really solve the problem….you just band-aid a symptom and the problem is going to reoccur.
We do this a lot in life. We are struggling with people, with situations, with problems….and we band-aid a symptom (ie, we deal with things on the surface that are uncomfortable – like tears or anger mean words or finances or blown fuses!) – and we do these without ever being aware of what is really going on deep down.
We have to start asking WHY in our life. We have to stop band-aiding our life and start digging deeper to get to the real root causes of pain and struggle that bind us down and keep us from being free.
And the toughest part of trying to ask why and dig deeper is that we all have blind Spots…spiritual blind spots, emotional blind spots, relational blind spots, financial blind spots, parenting blind spots. There’s things about your life and my life that we just can’t see. For example….
- Some of us talk too much, we dominate conversations and we don’t realize it
- Some of us are too touchy, feely (to the point of violating personal space) and everybody knows it but us.
- Some of us are over-confident and don’t realize it because confidence has become a coping mechanism for the insecurity that lives deep within us.
- Some of us are always trying to make jokes and be funny because deep down we are afraid of just being ourselves…maybe even because we aren’t sure of who we really are. And we don’t see it. But everybody else does.
In other words, the truth about you and the truth about me is that we don’t really know the truth about ourselves. And that can be a pretty scary truth to consider. The truth is often hard to spot.
There is an iconic scene from the classic movie The Wizard of Oz where truth is revealed. After Dorothy, Toto, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion and Scarecrow defeat the Wicked Witch of the West and return her broom to the Wizard of Oz, the Wizard
appears with his large green head, pyrotechnics and booming voice and tells them to come back tomorrow. As Dorothy begins to call him out, Toto runs over to a shaking curtain and pulls it back to reveal a simple man pulling levers, pushing buttons and spinning knobs which clearly control the appearance of the Wizard. Toto pulls back the curtain on the charade to reveal the truth.
Becoming aware of the truth means pulling back the curtain of your life to see what is really going on, what’s behind the scenes…the groans too deep for words, the motivations behind your actions, the subconscious mind, who or what is pulling the levers and the pushing buttons in your life.
Now as I have heard from people who have been able to pull back the curtain of their life – people who have become aware of their deepest motivations, their greatest fears and the things that make them tick – I’ve heard lots of different stories. Some talk about this moment of clarity when the curtain was pulled back. And just like Toto in the wizard of Oz, bang, they saw it! Others talk about a process – a lot of work, prayer, reflection, coaching and counseling. Some talk about a very mysterious, spiritual experience. And others speak in very practical, step by step terms.
You see, there is no one way to create awareness, no one path to come to yourself (as the prodigal story says). But I do think there are a few thing in common. Awareness does not come by accident. It takes intention. It takes work.
First, it begins with a decision. A willful decision. You have to make your mind up, say to yourself:
My life will not be defined by pain or frustration or anger or shame or grief or fear or loss. These will not hold me down or bind me up any longer.
Think about this: When did the prodigal son come to his senses? It wasn’t it when he was running, it wasn’t when he was partying, it wasn’t when he was in a hurry to leave. It was only when he slowed down, it was only when he was in the pig lot and he had nothing else to do. And he’s hungry, and he’s literally sitting with pigs reflecting on his life compared to the pigs life. And it’s a pretty intense moment of self reflection if you’re honestly comparing yourself to a pig. But that’s when he came to himself, when he came to his senses, when he became self-aware.
There are things in our lives that keep us from being aware, that are especially good at keeping us from becoming self-aware….
- Busy-ness – never slow down, never take time to stop, never put time towards our SELF
- Competition – climbing ladder of success, achievement, rat race
- Distractions – over-news-ed, paper, social media, tv, etc. pay more attention to what is “out there” than to what is “in here”
- Entertainment – TV, Tv, Tv! Movies, concerts, videos, memes – not that entertainment is bad, but is can be a distraction – everything in MODERATION!
- Consumption – consume to feel better (food, drink, games, social media, coffee! Again not that they are bad, but everything in MODERATION!
One of the best cures for all of these is this:
Slow Down! Be intentional! Be mindful! Take time for self reflection and self care!
Whether you are too busy or too bored – sometimes we are busy being bored, busy being lonely, busy just being because busy-ness is a common disease we share in our society, it is extremely contagious, it is a viral epidemic!)… But whether you are too busy or too bored, I encourage you to…
- Slow down
- Listen to your life
- Be intentional and mindful of your thoughts and actions and motivations and feelings and perceptions
- Love yourself by seeking to understand yourself
This week in the devotions we will send out, there will be some exercises to help you slow down and listen and pay attention. Take a look at them and try them out. You can pick them up before you leave today or watch for them in your email.
But I want you to hear me say this again: slow down. You know authors write a lot about how we love to be busy and in a hurry in our society. We love to keep out time filled with things to do. Chances are if I ask anyone of you later this week how you are doing, you will respond to me: “I’m keeping busy” or “I’m just too busy.” It’s funny really! We complain about being busy. But we keep ourselves busy. It’s like we don’t really want to not be busy.
But friends, if we want to embrace the freedom that God has for us, if we want to be all that God has made us to be, if we want to truly come home, we have to slow down and become aware.
We have to stop saying “I’m busy,” and start saying,”God, I’m ready.”