American culture does not seem to place much value on self-analysis. I’ve noticed that even Christian Americans tend to deride such activity as “navel gazing,” implicitly preferring action to introspection.
I intend, however, to defend the contemplation of the navel today. The Bible tells me to do as much.
We are now in what is supposed to be an extended period of reflection for Christians, leading up to the celebration of Easter April 9. As has been mentioned already, some denominations, including various kinds of Methodists, call this church season “Lent,” which should not be confused with the fuzzy threads you may notice while gazing at your navel.
In Romans 10:8-13, we see the actions necessary to accept salvation. The Apostle Paul writes that “if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.”
For most of us, however, it’s not possible to confess and believe, and keep on doing so, without a little self-analysis. We need such ongoing reflection to deepen our understanding of who we are as broken people and who God is as the pure and holy creator.
To accept and appreciate what has been done for us, we have to meditate on the chasm between humanity and God. Sin, our inability to obey God’s will, causes this separation, of course.
If you want a big-picture view of the break in the relationship, read the story of what we call “the fall” in Genesis 3. And if you want to see yourself in the story, meditate a while on the last time you did what you instinctively knew was wrong, behaving like a modern Adam or Eve.
Most of us who call ourselves Christians have been through this meditative process at least once. Understanding our separation from God is what brought us to our knees in the first place. But some post-conversion navel gazing is healthy, too.
None of us is made perfect by that first moment of confession and belief, and with God’s help we want to become more loving as time passes. That’s why Lent is so useful. Once a year, we are reminded of our need to reflect, and in that reflection we draw even closer to God, growing in our faith and our ability to do God’s work.
Yes, it can be a somber effort. But remember who lies at the end of it all. In our brokenness, we are met by Jesus Christ, the one who took ultimate action.
In dying on the cross for our sins and then overcoming death, he closed the chasm, and reunion with our creator is possible. Easter joy is just around the corner!