I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:12-16)

One of the results of being “strange” is looking at and listening to things a bit differently. I find that to be a powerful source of learning and self-evaluation. Often, the lives of others cause me to see things about myself I had rather not see or know.

Recently while we were taking a relaxation trip, we visited an impressive congregation in an extremely small town. It was a much larger congregation than one would expect to find in such a small town and sparsely populated terrain.

It was a very active congregation that was both community-focused and foreign mission-focused. Their contribution and their projects/programs were nothing less than astounding. Obviously, instead of feeling sorry for themselves (as many congregations do in their setting), they were actively involved in helping others and ministering to Christ’s family.

Significant in the congregation were a number of retired, much experienced elders and ministers. The level of talent and experience in that small congregation was truly impressive. Though they did not comprise the bulk of the congregation, they were active, prominent, and significant in the congregation’s work.

Such people form “living mirrors” who challenge us to examine ourselves. Time transforms us all in small, silent ways. I find those transformations are not obvious until we look at ourselves reflected in such “living mirrors.”

Perhaps this transformation is best understood with an illustration. It is the soul of the meaning of, “He/she seems so much younger than he/she actually is.” In a positive way, he or she does not act his or her age. He or she refuses to allow physical aging to change “who I am.”

To mature spiritually, two things are necessary: (1) Know who you want to be. (2) Know who you do not want to be. The two are not the same. You know who you want to be by looking at Jesus Christ and scripture. You know who you do not want to be by (a) backing off from yourself, (b) being honest with yourself, and (c) seeing yourself in your actions and attitudes. We must know both who we are and who we do not wish to be. Instead of justifying ourselves, we examine ourselves—and that is demanding!

From Paul I learn it is as important to be honest about who I am (absent God’s grace) as it is to have confidence in whom Christ Jesus made me (with God’s grace) to be.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 1 November 2007

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