Look Inward, Look Outward (Sunday Soundbite)

Look Inward (thinker) Look Outward (do-er)
Look Inward (thinker) Look Outward (do-er)

Look Inward

“Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength…” Isaiah 40:31

There are times in life when charging ahead is maybe not so wise, tempting, but not wise.

We may not have properly thought through the direction we are taking. When our enthusiasm for a particular pathway is born of a little too much  enthusiasm and too little wisdom, danger can lay ahead. Enthusiasm is great when educated and grounded. ‘Blind’ enthusiasm, or ‘ill educated’ enthusiasm, which isn’t anchored in anything you could call stable or firm, can do more harm than good and although sometimes you can still do a safe u-turn after you’ve started down a particular road, there are other times when it’s too late, you can’t u-turn, at least not easily, at times not easily at all, not without causalities.

Sometimes, before embarking on a direction in our lives, it is necessary and wise to stop, stand still and take stock, seek wisdom, guidance, from wise sources. Maybe the direction before us is the right one, but we may need some more preparation first; or maybe it’s the wrong direction entirely, no matter how enticing it seems, but we’ll only see that by stopping and letting wisdom show us the danger signs and give us courage to turn around, especially when turning around will not be pain free.

When I say ‘stand still’ I mean an inner state, a section of our minds reserved for ‘simply thinking’ and giving those thoughts time and space to gel and grow and give birth to other thoughts, even while we go about our daily lives. No matter what we’re doing or where we’re going physically, we are always engaged in another world mentally. In this way the wisdom process is enacted. In life it is not always possible to simply stop all activity to ‘ponder’, unless you live in a monastery, although taking some ‘time out’ if that’s possible, is helpful. I’m sure you get the picture, people can be living their lives in relationships, at work, with family, in a host of areas, and all the while, inside, they are contemplating pathways that no-one other than God can see. Sometimes people do simply act spontaneously, but normally, people who take big decisions have been thinking about them in the quiet invisibility of their minds for some time.

Have a period of inner reflection fed by those we consider wise. There are living people who can give wise counsel, and there are long gone (or short gone…) people who have left records of their wisdom which can be accessed. Time spent in inner reflection is rarely time wasted, it can be the most crucial time in any journey. ‘Just go with the flow’ isn’t always good advice, especially when ‘the flow’ ends in a waterfall which we see too late to change course.

Look Outward

“Rise! Let us go!” Matthew 26:46

But just as it is not always wise to press ahead under the direction of blind enthusiasm, neither is it wise to remain in a period of inner reflection indefinitely.

There are occasions when we can remain in that reflective state for too long. This can be out of fear of actually getting up and moving forward, fear of the unknown, fear of taking a risk, the pain of leaving something behind, you’ll be able to insert your own ‘fear’ in this scenario.

I have always loved the record in the Bible of Jesus’ time in the Garden of Gethsemane. While it spoke to me deeply during a time of ill health in my own life, it also spoke to me of the process of recovery. What has always struck me is that while Jesus took time to pray to His Father, to seek wisdom and guidance in one of the most emotional,  painful and intellectually honest sections in the Bible, He did not remain in the state of inner prayer for an indefinite period of time. He prayed His heart out, He prayed till He bled, He unloaded the concerns, fears and extreme anguish of His soul into the heart of His Father.

…and then He got up and allowed circumstances to lead Him through a mock trial and then to the cross where He would be put to death. He knew that His Father was in full control even of the circumstances which led Him to His death. He knew that His risen future, and the hope of humanity, could only be attained by taking this pathway and that pathway led to the cross.

Our pathway may not necessarily lead through suffering, the history of Christian testimony shows that God’s guidance leads in a myriad of pathways and experiences, both good and ill. But the important point is to rise, after a period of reflection, and walk that pathway. There comes a time when we are still reflecting and thinking but when we look up, we see Jesus ahead of us, motioning us forward, for the time has come for movement. It is then foolish to continue deep inner reflection when Jesus is indicating that we should now move. To see Jesus lead us forward and then remain where we are, is itself to tread a different path to that which God has marked out for us.

Forward movement!
Forward movement!

Some people, and I speak to myself here, want to stay in ‘reflection mode’ for far longer than they need to. I could point to times in my own life when I have still sought guidance when I have known, deep down, that what was needed now was to move to the next phase and go forward.

There is a time for reflection and there is a time for acting. Indeed, reflection can and should continue while we move along our chosen pathway, but it is that forward movement that Jesus embraced, that we also need to embrace. Remaining in reflection when the time has come to move forward can cause our inner life to stagnate even while we tell ourselves otherwise. Genuine inner reflection is not truly realised until we rise and move forward. As such , it is part of the whole movement of God’s Spirit along the pathway He has for us and the mechanism which propels us along that pathway is both reflection and forward movement.

Fear, in its many forms, can keep us reflecting when the time has come to move forward. Breaking those chains is a necessary step to embracing the life God has given us.

Embrace your life!

Thanks for reading 🙂

Be nice, be contrary, but don't be rude :-)

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