Reflections and Poetry

Finding an old note in Scripture: a reflection

Finding an old note reveals my growth

Recently, in finding an old note in a pocket Bible, I discovered my spiritual growth in the last twenty-five years.

I had written inside a booklet of Solomon’s Proverbs something of my state of mind which was quite revealing: it showed the state of my own complicated-but-honest heart dated 1997…. I was not yet fully broken but willing to share with GOD on the journey of surrender. I will share it with you momentarily, because what it reveals personally how far I’ve journeyed since writing it — growth is so encouraging — and also how John’s first letter is so captivating and helpful in our growth toward holiness.

1 John 2:12-14 says,

“I write to you, little children,

Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.

I write to you, fathers,

Because you have known Him who is from the beginning.

I write to you, young men,

Because you have overcome the wicked one.

I write to you, little children,

Because you have known the Father. 

I have written to you, fathers,

Because you have known Him who is from the beginning.

I have written to you, young men,

Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you,

And you have overcome the wicked one.”

When I wrote the note which I’ll share below, I was on the cusp of becoming one of whom John refers to as “young men”.

A witness opportunity leads me to the old note

This past week I had the privilege of discussing Our Lord with a workman who was in my house. It isn’t the first time he’s been doing some updating of plumbing. But on this day, I had the opportunity to offer something of GOD’s word to him to take away, and he was gracious and interested. Hallelujah! Isn’t it such a privilege to share about Jesus?

Well, in prayerful consideration of what to give him, I had a fresh copy of the Gospel of Mark. But I also felt to give him Proverbs (this gentleman has a lot of wisdom, common sense and is a deep thinker so it seemed appropriate) but I only had a copy of the booklet of Proverbs from the Message version by Eugene Peterson which was my own, and marked up by pencil.

As I poured through paraphrased Proverbs before the man was due to arrive, rubbing out pencil marks, I found a note I’d written in the back of the booklet dated 1997. I share it with some hesitation as it is quite personal, but I risk sharing with the desire to reveal how we all have dark corners where GOD needs to shed His light. It may even jog some of your own personal memories. We all are growing towards complete freedom from our flesh. Flashing back to “where we were then” can be so encouraging as we recognise “where we are now”, We all are on the road, travelling through the stages of maturity from children, to young men, to fathers in the faith. 

Here’s what I wrote

“Proverbs 12 (page 42): ‘I sow war’ — How to sow peace? I love pain? I hate pleasure? When chips are down, I excel. I fight much better than I can love. 

“To sow peace one must want to sow peace. I want to so war because I like victory. I like to spread my wings and talons and prove my righteousness. I like my own way, I like to demonstrate my one-up-man-ship. I get satisfaction, stimulation, from expressing my anger. It’s kind of a lust to fantasise conflict with people. License to squash.”

Now this is not a nice note. But it was years ago and a reference point of fleshly honesty between me and the LORD. So, what does it tell me?

Twenty-five years ago I was already saved and had a warrior spirit but clearly, was not fully surrendered to the LORD. I was aware of my shortcoming, and recognised the dark corner of my heart with its tendency toward conflict. Psalm 51 comes to mind, David’s psalm and one of repentance: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

The question marks suggest I was considering my preferences, exploring my mind and wondering what was really going on inside it. Where there are questions, I’m inconclusive. But I’m certain I’m competitive, temperamental and hostile.… (My own memory serves to confirm this.) Yes, I used to hold conversations in my head where I told someone off; isn’t that quite common? But as I reflect on past and present, I realise I no longer do that. I have peace instead.

In fact, I came from a background where there was a lot of conflict and so eventually, after 1997, I would become aware it was not so much that I wanted conflict, but rather conflict was what I was used to. I was deeply devoted to truthfulness, but also greatly accustomed to feeling the need to defend myself. Face to face, I might lose a battle of words but privately I could win, and so I had fantasy conflict to prepare myself for real conflict with people. A sad state really, and one the LORD has since freed me from. It is a very negative way to live. 

I wonder if this is perhaps a more common habit, a way of existing for others as well as it was for me? Well, Jesus healed me through a renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2). I pray for the same for others.

How to relate to 1 John

John identifies his audience as comprising children, young men and fathers. I don’t believe this is age-related but maturity-related. 

A child is a child of the LORD because he or she is saved (sins are forgiven) and knows who GOD the Father is.

A young person in the LORD is one who has overcome Satan, has strength of faith and knows the Word of GOD.

A father is a person who knows GOD intimately as Creator of the Universe from the Beginning (even before Time).

Where are you on this path?

We who are in Christ know we are growing into maturity and holiness, becoming more like Him. But I suggest it is also useful to know where we are currently on this path. Spiritual and character maturity is not about chronological age but is all about our intimacy and surrender in Christ.

Let’s aim to become Fathers — but not by skipping a stage — so we can support others more and more in their journey, and draw nearer and nearer to GOD in ours, for His glory and His pleasure.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.