One of the “side benefits” (if I can use that term) of being a Christian is the awareness of self that it brings. John Calvin understood this. He begins his “Institutes of the Christian Religion” making the two-part point that, “in the first place, no man can survey himself without forthwith turning his thoughts towards the God in whom he lives and moves… On the other hand, it is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself.” Our aim in becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ should not be solely to know ourselves, but Calvin’s point is true: it naturally happens in the process.
The first thing we may learn about ourselves is that we are made—created, not evolved. Furthermore, we are made uniquely in the image of our Creator. Very soon after we learn that we were created perfect. Then we learn we are now a race of rebels against our good Creator-God. These are the initial stepping stones that teach us about ourselves as we come to the knowledge of God in Christ. In the proper context it is a very good thing to be self-aware.
John the Baptist was self-aware practically from the womb, where he lept for joy when pregnant Mary greeted Elizabeth. Years later, when asked pointedly who he was, he “confessed and did not deny, but confessed” both who he was not, and who he was, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness.”
Peter…not so much. Not initially. Peter’s own self-awareness was miscalibrated. He swore at the Last Supper that he was ready to go to prison and die with Jesus. Hours later he denied the Lord three times despite being told by Jesus that’s exactly what would happen. I think Peter’s self-knowledge was given a sudden, traumatic adjustment in an instant. Luke records the exact moment for us. “And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord…” It wasn’t the rooster’s crowing that got Peter; it was the look of the arrested Lord Jesus. Like the blind man who was healed in two parts, first only seeing men as trees walking, Peter’s perspective wasn’t complete, but after Pentecost it was a thousand times clearer.
Paul’s self-awareness was always there, but underwent a radical transformation. He went from an arrogant, self-righteousness bent on justifying his hatred behind a façade of religious zeal to a humble single-minded boldness: “to make known the mystery of the gospel” (Eph 6:19) knowing full well it would cost him everything. His self-awareness comes through over and over again. Whether he sees himself as the “least of the apostles” (1 Cor 15:10), the “chief of sinners” (1 Tim 1:15), or a whole host of other descriptors, Paul knew himself best when he saw himself in Christ. All that he was before no longer mattered (Phi 3) and by Philippians 4 he says of himself “I know…I know…I have learned…”
All of this is a long introduction to a very short point: Take time to know yourself. In the Lord discover who he has made you. Dave Miller had an excellent post a few weeks ago about his own struggles with weight and appetite. He knows himself in those areas. I know of myself that I am an extrovert, my batteries get charged by being around others. Alone times are OK, but prolonged seasons of isolation are not healthy for me. You might be the opposite, eagerly waiting for another interlude of solitude. Discover your faults, your areas of greatest temptations, your compassion blind-spots, etc. and then think and pray through what you learn about yourself and how to incorporate those things into your life.
A healthy self-awareness is not an end goal in itself, but in the Lord it ultimately glorifies Him. David took stock of himself and used it as an opportunity to correct his inner spiritual unrest and draw closer to the Lord (Psalm 42:5, 11; 43:5). A less inward example is that taking inventory of the activities you enjoy will likely hit at the very spiritual gifts that God has given you with which to bless and edify the Church. Then find a place to exercise them. Thirdly, and putting it all together really, discovering more about how the Lord has wired you–and doing so in conjunction with seeking to know Him more– naturally sweetens this life the Lord has blessed you to live that much more!