I’ve been taught never to rely on my feelings—a dualistic view of mind and emotions. Feelings come and go; they can be wild and undependable. It’s better to ignore or suppress especially negative feelings and emotions and simply get on with the job. Yet those emotions never completely disappear and can stir up ever so often. Over time, this part of me becomes hidden and dark to myself and to others.
Our emotional life is vitally important and God-given. Peter Scazzero emphasises this in his book, The Emotionally Healthy Leader.1 I need to be familiar with my emotions and discern, with the help of the Holy Spirit, what God is saying to me. I must take time to pause and reflect for change and transformation to occur.
About four years ago, Associate International Director Viv Thomas shared with our East Asia Pacific leaders a set of Examen questions that have stayed with me:
• What has taken life out of you today?
• What has given you life today?
• Where have you seen the serpent’s tail today?
The Daily Examen is a prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern His work in our whole experience. Examen often leads to confession, gratitude and freedom.
Viv also introduced Lectio Divina (Latin for ‘Divine Reading’ or ‘Sacred Reading’), an ancient practice of contemplative scriptural reading, meditation and prayer intended to promote communion with God. Initially, it was difficult for me not to do a theological analysis or exegesis of the biblical passages. The key is to listen for the inner message of the scripture passage delivered through the Holy Spirit.
The discipline of extended solitude and silence was introduced to me three years ago at a retreat. How would I cope with days of silence? Could I still the noises in my head? Would God ‘show up’? My anxiety was misplaced; when I was ready, waiting and empty, God spoke. The ambience of quiet open spaces and the labyrinth, beauty, nature, and quiet chapels helped me in silent mindfulness.
Through Scripture, God said that He loves me. He lavishes His love upon me. I’m precious to Him. He delights in me. He sings over me. He loves me, my family, my ministry and my future. I can rest in a loving God who is ultimately in control of everything. I’ve preached on these truths before, but they now touched me at the core of my being. The teachings of Henri Nouwen on ‘being the beloved’ further reinforced these truths.
Is this focus on the self unhealthy? Not if we seek to know the self that is known by God. David Benner in The Gift of Being Yourself states that in order to know God, I have to know myself. He writes, “We do not find our true self by seeking it. Rather, we find it by seeking God…in finding God we find our truest and deepest self.”2
God calls each of us to an inner journey to Him and an outer journey to the least-reached peoples. I have only begun on this inner journey, and I am thankful for fellow travellers who share not only the ministry, but their life with God.
The practices of Examen, Lectio Divina, Solitude and feedback from others help me on this expansive and wonderful journey of knowing God and my true identity in Christ.
1. ISBN 978-0-310-49457-7
2. ISBN 978-0-8308-4612-2; p. 91
Kenneth Bong is the former Singapore Field Leader. He now serves as Associate Area Leader for East Asia Pacific and is based in Singapore. He is married to Jenny and they have two daughters, Trina and Tricia.
Credit: Kenneth Bong · © 2017 OM International