Reflecting on Reflection

posted in: Uncategorized | 0

journaling

I was reading a dead boring tome on theories of organizational change for a class I’m taking when I was surprised by an obscure reference to the power of reflection. My heavy lidded eyes popped open and I sat up as I reread the paragraph. Here is what it said:

…[F]our rules that… change leaders [leaders of change] should accept to enhance their self-development:

 

  1. You are your own best teacher.
  2. You accept responsibility and blame no one.
  3. You can learn anything you want to learn.
  4. True understanding comes from reflection on your experience.[1]

Theologically, there might be a problem with rule number 1, since a biblical view of the heart of self is that it is deceptive and desperately wicked (Jer 17:9). I would revise rule number 1 to read, “short of divine sources of instruction, your own council is at least as reliable as another’s.”  I’m not giving up on the possibility of divine instruction.

The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue to know the word that sustains the weary. Morning by morning he wakens me – wakens my ear to listen like one being taught. – Isaiah 50:4.

But let’s look at rule number 4. True understanding comes from reflection on your experience. What happens when you pray Scripture through the four cycles of lectio divina? How many levels and kinds of understanding are rising up, penetrating your brain and your heart and your soul when you yield to deep, silent reflection? Then the act of translating the spiritual experience into the English language as you write in your journal is yet another round that leads to deeper understanding. Maybe we should call the journaling we do after praying Scripture “stage five lectio.”

Ask yourself, would your experience of lectio divina garner the same intense sense of meaning and connection with God if you skipped the journaling? Sometimes I’m tempted to do that. My time in silence was sweet and my mind and body are still. Journaling takes movement, activity…  But I am always, always rewarded when I make the transition from stillness to writing because my mind lights up with the effort. No, I can’t capture all the richness of my time in lectio, but I can record a brief snippet of it. This brief snippet is there to be enjoyed and built upon. It is a picture of understanding.

Walter Bennis says that reflection is an important part of self-development. I think it is also an important part of spiritual development. Especially when the instruction comes from the Lord. Now that is an experience worth reflecting on. Are you up for that?

____________

[1] Walter Bennis, (1989), as quoted in Tupper Cawsey and Gene Deszca, Toolkit for Organizational Change, (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2007) 251.