The process of self-reflection is something we all ought to partake in once in a while. We see some evidence of self-reflecting each new year in the form of resolutions. Many people look back over the last year and wonder how the next year can be better. A problem I see with the art of self-reflection is that we’re too close to ourselves to accurately determine what needs to be changed for us to see the change we want. This is why every year we make the same New Years’ resolutions. And then abandon them. If we are too close to ourselves to honestly evaluate ourselves, then how can we accurately self-reflect and make the changes that need to be made? Can we still self-reflect, considering the premise that we are the barrier that’s keeping us from seeing what really needs to change? 

When we examine ourselves, we’re not doing so in a vacuum. The person I am today has been formed by years of experience. Not, as some might think when they make New Year’s resolution, the last year. If this indeed were the case, then more people than not would successfully change their behavior each year instead of repeating the same process year after year. Most of us can remember the promises we made to ourselves the previous year when we resolved to change. This is one impetus for change. “I tried this last year, but it didn’t work out. I can do better this year.” If we had a journal of the last five years of New Year’s resolutions that were eerily similar, with the same sort of endings, would we still try and make the change we wanted to see? Would we do something differently? Would we learn more about ourselves by reflecting on the last five years of failed New Years’ resolutions instead of making the same ones? 

A key to possibly solving the dilemma of self-reflection and time is to record who we are. There are myriad ways we can keep a record of ourselves. A photo is worth a thousand words. However, I don’t see photos being an accurate tool for self-reflection. They only capture our outward state and are easily contrived. Videos could be one way of recording ourselves for the sake of future reflection. Journaling also has its merits for recording our thoughts and feelings. 

When I was a younger adult and just starting college, I started a journal. I’d love to say that I’ve journaled every day since and have years of treasured memories at hand. However, I only journaled for short periods before finally giving it up. One problem with writing down our thoughts and feelings is privacy. Some might encroach upon our self-reflection and cause undue harm. Such was the case when I first started journaling and why I stopped so many years ago. I wrote everything down in physical journals without any means of protection. Today we can journal electronically and use passwords to protect our precious thoughts. 

I noticed something when reading the daily entries in my journals from years ago. They are largely devoid of deep thoughts about me. They are mostly observations of my life at the time with little or no context. An attractive quality to someone invading one’s privacy but a tool for deep self-reflection they are not.

This brings me to the idea of prompts. In our self-reflection, we desire to see ourselves and then make changes where they are needed. If we make up our own prompts, then we run the risk of creating the same sort of problem we have that’s led us to journal in the first place. We could be too close to the topic or end up writing about something that we become too far away to even relate to later on. We wonder why we used such a prompt in the first place when we read about it later. Our interests and focuses change over time as we change. That’s not to say that prompts are a bad idea. 

Unbeknownst to me, I have been recording some of my deepest thoughts over the last 10 years when I read the Bible. Every year I follow the same Bible reading plan that I followed before. I also use the same Bible software I used the previous year. In fact, I use the same reading plan from when I was first saved over 15 years ago. However, I originally hand-wrote journals to record my thoughts, but those journals are currently lost to time. Although I have been keeping an electronic journal for the last 10 years or so in the form of journaling software, I don’t spend much time going through all of those entries to see what I’ve written. I have spent some time going through those entries, but it’s very time-consuming. Even when using search functions for specific topics. 

The Bible application I use is YouVersion. While there’s a web-based version, I have predominately used the mobile version since 2010. This version has various tools that support the concept of self-reflection. One can bookmark, highlight, share, make images, or notes of Scripture. They’ve even added a prayer function that can be tied into single or multiple verses. While sharing verses, making image verses, and adding prayers are great tools, none of those carry the historical value of bookmarks, highlights, and notes. 

Although I follow the same Bible reading plan each year, I follow other plans and sometimes read the Bible without any sort of pre-planning. When I read the Bible and find something that interests me, I highlight, bookmark, or make a note within the Bible application. Highlights show up the same as they do in printed books. They will always be there to show the passage or passages that stood out to me. Bookmarks and notes also have visual indicators while reading that tells the reader there’s a bookmark or note, associated with the verse or verses. 

This is where the idea of prompts comes in. Scripture is the same when we read it. If we read it in different translations, the words might be a little different, but the meaning is the same. However, we should be different over time. Before I was saved, I used to see people at sporting events with signs displaying “JOHN 3:16“, and I wondered what that meant. My thoughts about the meaning of John 3:16 are different now than before I was saved. However, John 3:16 is the same.

Even if you are reading this as a teenager, you know that you see the world differently than when you were five. Whatever age we are when we are saved, we are born again. We may be old in the world, but we are young in Christ. Our thinking should reflect growth as we mature in Christ. Before I was saved, John 3:16 was nothing more to me than some “religious thing.” Today I see the people who lift up those signs as missionaries of sorts and no longer view the verse or them the same. 

Each day when I read the Bible, I see highlights, notes, and bookmarks I’ve left. I open these up and read what has been written observing the date it was written. Some highlights are only highlighted with the date. When I see the dates and my notations, I get a glimpse into what I was thinking at the time. My notations contain thoughts, desires, and prayers as prompted by the verse and the Holy Spirit. Some contain questions without the answers, and some have questions not answered very well. All of them give me a picture of how I saw my life at the time. 

Self-reflection is about allowing ourselves to see ourselves. As I have said, the problem is that we are too close to ourselves in time to accurately and honestly perform a decent self-reflection. We are also too close to our circumstances. 

I’ve noticed, as I read through my notes over the years, how much I commented on circumstances I no longer remember. This verse from Phillipains stood out to me today.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

Philippians 4:4 (NIV)

When I read my notes from June 14, 2011, I was struck by a comment I made.

The circumstances right now don’t seem to be the greatest. However, I am to rejoice in the Lord because these circumstances don’t dictate who I am.

I had also written a lot more about my hope in Christ and such, but that comment stood out. I realized this is something I often say to myself in one way or another. My circumstances don’t make me who I am. They don’t, and that’s true. What struck me about my comment from 12 years ago, is that I don’t know what I was talking about. My closest friend had indeed died six months earlier. However, what I remember from that June are good things. Hopeful things. I was getting ready to take a new step in my life into boundless possibility. I took those steps in my life that year, and they didn’t go how I had planned and that brought its share of pain. However, at this time in June, I shouldn’t have been saying my circumstances weren’t that great. My circumstances weren’t dictating who I was, but they certainly were changing my perspective of what was and where I was going.

What I realized today about self-reflection and circumstances is this.

1. Our circumstances aren’t as bad as we think they are in the grand scheme of things. 

2. If I don’t remember those circumstances today, from 12 years ago, just how important were they?

3. Paying so much attention to our circumstances, the woes in our life, robs us of the joy we can find in the good things.

4. We are not accurate surveyors of our own condition because our view is short-sighted. We must look to God, who sees all things and knows all things. He has seen our end.

I started today by considering the fourth point above, and the problems we have by relying upon ourselves. I wasn’t expecting to go the way that I’ve gone, but this is the way I’ve been taken by the Holy Spirit. I suppose I have used many words to say we’re not the best judge of our own condition. That we have to trust God who sees it all. However, I do see value in keeping notes of what the Holy Spirit says to us when we read the Bible. We might not realize that it’s the Holy Spirit talking to us when we read the Bible. We may not see anything profound or otherwise extraordinary in what see, but if anything comes to mind, we should take the steps to record it for our future selves, if for no other reason than self-reflection. 

Do you know God? God knows you, and He loves you. He sees you as significant because you are. No one is insignificant to Him. He’s with you today, right now, and He wants you to know Him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so we could be free of guilt, be freed from death, and live eternally with Him. Eternal salvation is just a prayer away. 

Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation today:

Lord Jesus, forgive me for all my sins. I repent from my ways. Wash me in your blood and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. I believe that you died on the cross, were buried, and on the third day, God the Father raised you from the dead. Right now, Lord Jesus, I open the door to my heart, and I receive you into my heart as my Lord and personal Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment, and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.