Here’s the longer quote from Thomas á Kempis:
“No one feels in his heart what Christ felt in his Passion, except the person who suffers as he did. So, the cross is always ready and waits for you everywhere. You cannot escape it no matter where you run, for wherever you go, you are burdened with yourself, and wherever you go, there you are. Look up, look down; look out, look in. Everywhere you will find the cross, and you must endure patiently if you wish to have inner peace and gain eternal life.”The Imitation of Christ
This quote reflects a fascinating challenge in the modern age of “self-awareness.”
Or really faux-self-awareness, if we’re honest – as too many have become only self-aware enough to explain away, justify, or mask their flaws.
Self-awareness is vital in Christian maturity. But it is not an end in itself (like it can become for the world around us).
The end for Christians is becoming like Jesus. And so we must take another path alongside the quest for self-awareness (at the very same time really), and that’s the road of self-crucifixion.
We can only die to ourselves when we actually know ourselves. Ironic isn’t is?
Many people have been taught to live very well within the façade of an idealized false self. Unfortunately, religion can many times cause people to become entrenched in that false self even more if they aren’t careful.
It looks like presenting a version of oneself to the world that isn’t completely true. It’s modified. Typically enhanced or exaggerated. And unfortunately something people can get so used to presenting that they lose themselves completely in it, and usually require a jolting of sorts to finally deal with the reality of who they have become…
For the Christian, our calling is to become fully aware of ourselves (the good, the bad, the ugly) and to own those aspects of who we are, so that we might be able to crucify the things in our humanity that must give way if Jesus is going to take precedent in our lives.
And this practice of self-awareness requires us to be fully present.
Right where we are.
With who we are.
In view of those around us.
Which is where the quote comes into play:
“and wherever you go, there you are.”
Sounds very profound, doesn’t it?
Yet, ironically, it is very simple.
Simple, and yet very hard to live out.
Why? Because we are experts at distracting ourselves from being fully present.
With social media.
With religious entertainment even.
The list is endless of that which we can use to perpetuate distracting ourselves from who we are so that we can go on pretending we are the false self we’ve become accustomed to.
And more only make it harder in this process as well.
But we chase after such things. Not even realizing that what can be seen as a blessing externally can internally quickly become a curse.
Those things can cause us to puff up our false self and thicken the barrier to genuine self-awareness, which keeps us from truly being present.
And what changes when we become fully present? We can become fully aware of God’s presence with us.
And what changes when we become fully present? We can become fully aware of God’s presence with us.Tweet
Which allows us to be tuned into the Spirit.
Which allows us to become more like Jesus.
Without disciplining ourselves to be present, we will find ourselves merely participating in the grind of life.
That’s pretty much the cycle of an unfulfilling life, isn’t it?
I’ve lived it.
Maybe you have too.
Maybe you still are…
We can choose to keep running the race of life like most of the world around us. Burning ourselves out and burning thru relationships with those around us.
Or, we could look to the life of Jesus for another way.
A better way.
The way we were created to live.
An eternal life full of inner peace.
But the only way to get there is the pursuit of being fully present.
And that only comes as the stream of self-awareness and the stream of self-crucifixion merge into the river of life that Jesus has been offering us this whole time.