“You are the most introspective person I know!”
I hear this often from people around me. Sometimes it is used as a compliment. Other times I sense a little criticism from the person who says it. More than once, I have heard the “other voice,” the “behind the words voice,” saying “Get your nose out of your navel!”
While I agree there can be a problem with introspection, I don’t think that problem relates to the amount but rather the result of such introspection. Introspection as an end in itself is not productive. Introspection for the sake of transformation is.
Listen to how Oswald Chambers puts it
“God requires us to examine our own souls. It is a slow work…
it is astounding how ignorant we are about ourselves.
How many of us have learned to look inwardly with courage?”
But why would God require such examination? Because our souls are under assault. Threats come at our souls every day, maybe even throughout the moments of every day. Solomon got this reality and from that perspective, this wise man says, “Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4:23
The heart, the center of the soul, is the focus of the attack. Therefore, Solomon tells us to focus there on our guarding efforts. If we heed this advice, in order to guard our hearts, we must be aware of what is going on there. Yet, I am astounded how often I am ignorant or unaware of my own heart. This ignorance is why I spend the time introspectively. I want to know what is on my heart so that I can protect this precious gift from God – my heart.
We protect what we value. Solomon knows this. That is why he offers this reason – “..it is the wellspring of life” – for the call to guard our hearts. As this wellspring, our hearts are the source from which all of our life flows. With such importance, we need to guard our hearts.
From this passage, I learn some reasons why I don’t guard my heart. Either I don’t believe my heart is the source of my life or I don’t believe my heart is really in danger.
When I embrace both realities – the heart’s value and the heart’s battle – I go on duty, guarding what is my greatest asset, my heart. I pay attention to what is going on there. I learn the good and bad effects of the various things flowing into my heart – purging the bad and embracing the good.
However, there may be another reason I don’t probe into my heart. I don’t like what I find there. Pride. Selfishness. Self-pity. Idolatry. Hatred. Those are just a few of the uglier things I have found. When I find such as these, it isn’t fun. It usually shames me when I discover these. In the face of the shame, I think it better to leave them hidden.
Besides the ugliness, I have found some real pain as well. Wounds, sometimes deep wounds are stored away, where I think they are protected from further injury. It hurts to uncover them. In the face of the hurt, I think it better to leave them buried.
The ugliness and the pain. Both tempt me to skim over life. To listen to the criticism to “get my nose out of my navel” and push it all further down.
Instead, God bids me to come and open up my heart, to uncover it, to reveal it to him. Amazingly, he says he cares about what is there and can transform it.
In the face of such grace, I come – with whatever I find. I come confidently, knowing he has provided the “new and living way” of his Son for just this purpose.
With the ugliness, I come so my heart can be “sprinkled to cleanse us from an evil conscience.” (Hebrews 10:19-22). With my pain, I come so my heart can be comforted and “healed of the brokenness.” (Isaiah 61:1) I put myself in the presence of the one who alone can do what I long for – change my heart.
My experience echoes Chambers words – this transformation is slow work. But it is the work I long for, the work I think we all long for.
Therefore, I am introspective. For the sake of transformation. Besides, if I don’t come, I become like the Pharisees who “honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.” (Matthew 15:8, Isaiah 29:13)