The Mirror Will Always Reflect You, Or The Road We Put Ourselves On

So just a fair warning this post is pretty psychological. Blame it on the alcohol…and drug counseling license. This is not one of those times where you can breeze through what I’ve said and shrug it off because it doesn’t already fit into your pre-arranged paradigm. Some of my posts are about the collective church but here I am challenging you (all of us) to legitimately look within.

If someone where to read my journal they’d see common themes. You could tell what issues I was coming to terms with and working through in 2008 vs 2009 and so on. But I don’t think is particular to me..

I think that we often come to the table with preconceived notions about lots of ideas and so our individual theology can be more of a portrayal of our own personality and thinking patterns than it is explaining truth. That’s not to say there isn’t truth in there, but we’re like the guy who buys a new Jeep and then starts noticing that there are thousands of Jeeps in his town. They’ve of course always been there, but he’s now looking for them (at the expense of looking for other things).

Whatever we are working through, whatever aspect of Christianity and life we are currently exploring is likely a reflection of ourselves and what path we’ve been walking on.

So the universalist is likely one because they want it to be true and they’re emerging from a viewpoint that separated itself from everyone it possibly could, or conversely the exclusivist holds that view because they struggle with sizing people up and can’t fathom just any old person gets into heaven. Or someone who spends lots of time defending sinners may be doing so because they feel the need to know they are still justified and have grace from God in spite of their own sinful shortcomings and bad habits that won’t seem to break. The legalist may emphasize God’s demand for purity because they want to feel validated for all of their effort.

This may actually be fairly basic, as whatever we are focused on we start seeing in sorts of other places. I fear we become blind to this phenomenon and therefore starting transposing these ideas into our version of absolute truth.

I hope this doesn’t come across as too provocative – but we like to think that God has led us down whatever spiritual journey we are on. And certainly God is with. However I think we also put ourselves on the next spiritual road so that we can find fertile ground for justifying ourselves and whatever we are working through at that time.

This isn’t revolutionary. We often accuse certain people of making Jesus into their own image. However I am suggesting that to some degree we all do this. We can’t escape our own psyche, we can’t escape our issues – they will pop up somewhere. And theology is just about the most perfect place for them to pop up.

But maybe this post is moreso a reflection of me, as I’ve already told you this is exactly what I do.

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27 Responses to The Mirror Will Always Reflect You, Or The Road We Put Ourselves On

  1. JamesBrett says:

    have you ever read nicholas epley’s work concerning egocentrism and God? if christians believe God is always right, they will attempt to align their views with his. but epley’s study showed that nearly all of us are more likely to align God’s views with our own. he asked participants what they thought about a bunch of current issues (abortion, same-sex marriage, death penalty, etc). then he asked them how God felt about those same issues.

    obviously, the overwhelming majority of people believed they were siding with God on every single issue.

    i wrote a blog post on his work here:

    and here’s a link to the actual study:

  2. Yay! You’re back!
    I agree, and not only do we filter truth through ourselves, we filter it through the culture in which we live. I think it was Philip Yancy who wrote a book called “The Jesus I Never Knew”. Everything we think we know about Jesus we put through our own cultural filters, so what we think we know may not be exactly what He meant.
    So, whenever I have a question aout something, I ask Him.

    On another topic, I’m still thinking about your job situation. Any hospitals that could use your expertise? High Schools?

    And finally, your quote:” I’m pickin’ up on what you’re thowin’ down.” I love it! Mind if I steal it?
    Praying for a very good day for you and your family.

    • Thanks Jane! I actually wasn’t finished with this post but I accidentally hit the schedule button, so it went up incomplete. I had a little bit more to tweak, but it looks like I won’t!

      Anyway I love Philip Yancey and I have that book on my shelf, though it hasn’t been read quite yet. I bet most people can only imagine Jesus interacting in our culture, which is far from the one he lived in. Though this is only fair, as it’s really difficult to take off our cultural lenses.

      I actually just applied to a hospital today. I haven’t thought about high schools, may be worth exploring.

      and you can steal that quote – it is not my own – but I love it and use it so much it’s practically mine now.

  3. Our first encounter with Christianity shapes a huge portion of how we regard it for the rest of our lives. Period.

    • example? You’ve peaked my interest – now run with it!

      • Those who encounter Christianity up close and personal as children will always see it in that regard, whether it’s as legalism or liberalism, emotion or liturgy. They may mature and they may even decide that the first view they had was “wrong”, but their basic “this is Christianity” definition will still always point in that direction.

        Those who only encounter Christianity as adults will always see it as more life changing. More drastic. Whether or not they convert, the idea of “being a Christian” will always be a MUCH bigger decision to them. A much larger paradigm shift. This is the basics of why adult conversions are so rare but are much more genuine when they do occur.

        It’s also why those of us who were exposed to Christianity and possibly even saved at a young age battle much harder with the question of whether or not they were truly converted. The change is much more gradual and maybe even invisible or non-existent.

        Those who are introduced to Christianity through charismatic churches will be permanently stuck with a certain amount of charismatic thought. Those who encounter the Catholic church first will forever be stuck with seeing all Christianity through Rome-colored glasses. (Gosh, that’s a brilliant one. Can’t believe I came up with that, John Conlee….) I’m not saying they’ll be charismatics or Catholics for their whole life, but we never escape whichever version of Christianity it is that we meet first.

        Hope that makes a little sense. Sorta covered two different thoughts, but anyway.

      • that makes a lot of sense. A while back I wrote a post very similar to what you are saying with regards to adult converts and child converts – your comment makes me want to revisit it because you articulated it very well. I find it very interesting that Christianity started off with dramatic conversions and huge paradigm shifts, and then we tried to teach it to our children – but Christianity is so much a dramatic encounter with God and we can’t make that happen to children.

        Anyway thanks for the clarification, I think you are dead on.

      • Tis indeed very rare that anybody tells me I’m “dead on”. Tis a shame we live a continent apart and can’t share some form of liquid refreshment while we compliment each other for being the only other “right” person in the world (smile, smile), but that’s the way it is. Everybody here in my neck of the woods pretty much thinks I’m crazy…

      • Bernard you can be dead on and still crazy 😉

        and tis a shame – the internet helps find other like minded people but does little to separate the space between them.

  4. Each of us represent a collection of our past experiences. If we are honest, we can see how we believe what we believe based on on either a positive or a negative reaction to what we experiences in the past. Taking from Warren Buffet, I call this the Ovary Lottery.

  5. David says:

    Interesting perspective. I guess that I agree we are sort of the culmination of all our experiences, and life decisions. We can filter things based on our experiences, and even our worldview. (A trip to a third-world nation can fix a big part of that!)

    Jesus, however; radically changed me. By the His spirit, everything that I believed about life before when up in smoke. Even when I went back to some of my previous stupidity, he was there to meet me with a fresh encounter of his Spirit.

    What I find utterly amazing is that God speaks to me in various ways. Yesterday I received a prophecy about where I am on the path, early last week he illuminated a Bible verse I had read many times; but I see it much differently now, and on Friday a job that applied for sent me a nice email saying that I was over qualified and they couldn’t afford me. It admit it’s been hard learning to trust Jesus, but it is fulfilling beyond words.

    I enjoy Jesus, and as I have stepped away from religion (I do attend a church, even teach there, but refuse to be a part all the leadership stuff), I have found that I have nothing to prove, no position to obtain, no debate to outwit another in and no spiritual lottery to win. Everyday I am freer to know him, to experience my journey and to abandon myself to whatever he has. My only success in life is being obedient to Him, and admitting when I miss it.

    Even after a stint in seminary and Bible School, when it comes to theology, there are some things that only the Holy Spirit can assure us of; that’s I was I seek. If our theology is built on logic, and shaped by worldviews, feelings, experiences and lifestyle choices, we are bound to be in trouble. The Bible has lists nearly 700 traits, names, facets and attributes of who God is; relax, it’s going to take a while.

    I pray that your job search is blessed, and fruitful, Charlie.

    • thanks David. I suppose if I wanted to wrap up that post with good news all I would have to say is “but there is the Holy Spirit – and he’s just nearby, but he’s in us.” I agree too that if we move religion out of the way it does free us up quite a bit. I was immersed in a religious environment so this is tremendously difficult to shake – it is ingrained deeper than my food preferences (those change more easily).

  6. Hey all I accidentally scheduled this post even though it wasn’t yet complete, sorry for the ______ lines those were there to show me what needed more work. And thanks for commenting, guess I’ll leave it up since the conversation has already been started!

  7. Larry Hughes says:

    The one thing about cars is you can see yourself comming and going as you drive around looking at your particular make and color.

    I think a lot of our views on Chistianity is based on the denomination we are in at the time. Then if one jumps around in different denominations, you come up with a hodge podge of views that one would use as setting up their doctrines and views to follow that meet with their criteria of the truth. Still there is only one place to get the truth but many fit their own understanding of the truth to accomodate their beliefs.

    Human nature is fickle

    • I’d even say we’ll always compare our experience to what we first experienced – so we’ll always measure what church/denomination we are in to the most powerful one(s) of our childhood or formulative time. It’ll always be our reference point.

  8. Christ meets us, wherever we may be.

  9. Ike says:

    “Blame it on the alcohol…and drug counseling license.”

    Charlie….which do I blame it on? Alcohol? Or your drug counseling license?

    • I was making a sly pop culture reference to a song that says blame it on the alcohol. And I went for some shock value there but then totally switched it. I can understand if you are not up on the latest R&B pop songs about getting drunk. (I work with teenagers and this is an unfortunate side effect).

  10. Larry Hehn says:

    I think Anais Nin said something like “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.” And I agree. We all see things through our particular filter.

    • that is a money quote! And as I noted elsewhere you can’t blame someone too much for this – as how are they supposed to not see through their filter. So I think the trick is to know thyself and be aware when your bias kicks in because, well, it wants to for self-interest reasons.

  11. Chris says:

    I think we all agree that none of us comes to either their understanding of God, or faith completely neutral and that we all bring with us a certain amount of baggage that may color how we believe and the things we believe devoutly.

    But what I want to know is, is it possible to transcend our baggage and come to Christ and know truly? Or maybe I should ask in another way, is God so inept that he is incapable of communicating to me/us in a way that transcends all of my/our cultural baggage and experiences so that I may know Him truly, though not exhaustively?
    If God can’t break through all of it, I don’t think the question is what does it say about me, but rather what does it say about God? What is the point of Holy Scripture, and what was the point of Jesus death on the cross. Perhaps the bible is a load of hogwash after all, but we know precious little about Jesus outside of it.

    I think your points Charlie (and James) are well taken, But I think too much can be made of them, to the point where a rampant skepticism can begin to take hold.

    • you do raise a fair critique. Of course God can rise above our baggage, and he does. And we see Jesus, though I think we do add some extra stuff on. We all do, some more than others. But I do think the light of Jesus, sorry for the cliche, shines brightly enough that we all see that and we get that. I think some awareness is healthy for us all, so that we can begin to separate our baggage from God and can hone in even more on him.

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