Gathering 2 of the Apprentice Experience was focused on our own spiritual growth, maturity, and character development. As it should, this emphasis required soul searching and a willingness to clearly see our own deficiencies so that we could begin working on it, with Christ’s help. I was surprised at what stuck out to me as an area that I really needed to work on.
Being critical has always been a particular talent of mine. I have often used it as a crutch. If I can be critical of someone or some event or program then I don’t have to interact with that person or thing, and I can be on my way without all of the emotional baggage of connecting and assessing my own motivations and desires.
But, I am not just critical of others, I also can be ultra critical of myself. I am not a perfectionist type that mulls over work tasks and reports with a hyper-critical eye. My form of personal perfectionism involves my interactions with people. I am constantly replaying conversations in my head to find some statement or look that I should have handled better or should have included a different word or approach. I treat encounters I have with people like a football coach treats a game film after a game. I rarely like what I see and I am ultra critical of my abilities and my choice of words. Also, I over analyze the words and looks of the people I am conversing with. This usually leads to self doubt or shame as I find something in their reaction that makes me think less of myself.
God led me to the realization of the extent of my critical nature and how it has caused great pain in my life and how it has hindered me from getting close to people and finding the love, compassion, and friendship that comes from others. But I needed more than just a realization of my problem, I needed to be free of it.
One night in Wichita, we meditated on the story of Jesus healing the woman with the bleeding problem. Twice Jesus tells this woman to “go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” I believe that Jesus had her physical suffering in mind the first time he said it and her spiritual suffering in mind the second time he said it. As I meditated on this passage, I was comforted by this phrase and took the words to heart regarding my critical nature and its damaging effects. I was suffering through my endless need to criticize others and especially myself. Christ freed me from that suffering.
I did not expect this to be the area that God would do the most work on in my life last week but I am glad that he knows what is best for me much more than I know what is best for me.