THE WORD: Would you recognize yourself?

PHOTO CAPTION: “Paris Street in Rainy Weather” by Gustave Caillebotte (1877) is painting in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. (Public Domain) 

It will be worth our while — to think seriously of the things in us — that only God can see. There are sins which are hidden from ourselves, of which our conscience is not aware — our unknown errors. The evil in us which lies too deep to be discovered. There is a “self” in us, which even we ourselves do not see. There are depths of our being — into which our own eyes cannot pierce. You may say that you know of no sins, errors, or faults in yourself, and you may be sincere; still this is not evidence that you are sinless. 

Our conscience is not the final court. It is not enough to have the approval of our own heart. There are errors and evils in the holiest life on earth — which only God’s eye can detect. We must ask God to search us, if we would be made clean.  

We cannot see our own faults — even as our neighbors can see them. There is wisdom in the wish that we might see ourselves, as others see us — for it would free us from many a blunder and foolish notion.  

We are prejudiced in our own favor. We are disposed to be charitable toward our own shortcomings. We make all sorts of allowances for our own faults. We are wonderfully patient with our own weaknesses. We are blind to our own blemishes. We look at our good qualities through magnifying glasses; and at our faults and errors with the lenses reversed — making them appear very small. We see only the best of ourselves.  

If you were to meet yourself on the street some morning — that is, the person God sees you to be — you would probably not recognize yourself. 

We remember the little story that the prophet Nathan told King David, about a rich man’s injustice toward a poor man, and how David’s anger flamed up. “This man must die.” cried the king. He did not recognize himself — in the man he so despised, until Nathan quietly said, “You are the man.”  

We are all too much like David.  

If the true chronicle of your life were written in a book, in the form of a story, and you were to read the chapters over — you probably would not identify the story as your own. 

We do not know our real self. We do not imagine there is so much about us that is morally ugly and foul, that is positively wicked. But God searches and knows the innermost and hidden things of our heart. 

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24 

J.R. Miller was a pastor and former editorial superintendent of the Presbyterian Board of Publication from 1880 to 1911. His works are now in the public domain.