“Each has within him a secret of the Divinity; each is growing towards the revelation of that secret to himself, and so to the full reception, according to his measure, of the Divine. Every moment that he is true to his true self, some new shine of the white stone breaks on his inward eye, some fresh channel is opened upward for the coming glory of the flower, the conscious offering of his whole being in beauty to the Maker. Each man, then, is in God’s sight worth. Life and action, thought and intent, are sacred. And what end lies before us! To have a consciousness of our own ideal being flashed into us from the thought of God!” — George MacDonald, “The New Name”
Becoming is hard. It's like learning to walk on water. It's no wonder that we so easily lose our way, drowning in the ocean of constant distraction and empty passions and other people’s will. The only way anyone can learn to walk on water—that is, to be fully who you were meant to be—is by fixing your gaze on Jesus.
As wonderful as it sounds, fixing your gaze on Jesus in this way is no easy practice. Imagine walking on a tight rope in a room full of voices screaming in your ears demanding that you do as they say, and hands reaching out to pull you off the line, and the only saving grace rests in fixing your attention on the face of Christ directly ahead—full of grace and love and laughter, cheering you on? Make some of the voices belong to people you love, and you begin to appreciate the difficulty.
To become who you really are requires the same exquisite singularity of focus that the warrior needs:
“No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” — 2 Timothy 2:3-4
For make no mistake: this journey of becoming is warrior’s work. Becoming who you're meant to be isn't something you can dabble in, or take on as a hobby, and hope to get anywhere. Those who attempt this are only fooling themselves. They may pretend enlightenment, but they lack the substance of it. They mimic the lingo, and declare their “truth” with practiced bravado, but their presence lacks the gravitas of a true disciple. Everything they do is tainted by ego.
But the true man, the true woman, understands there are no shortcuts to mastery over their souls. The way of becoming your true self is the way of consecration, and of sanctification, and of a resolute faithfulness, and all of it is built on the artful skill of paying attention, which is the foundational practice upon which all the others depend.
You cannot follow Jesus if you keep losing sight of him every time distraction hits. To “fix your eyes” on him, to pay exquisite attention to every word he whispers and to every nuance of his expression, is the essential work of any true follower, and becomes the foundational way of life for any who hope to succeed at becoming who they really are…for who we really are is found in Him.
Paying attention is the first and most essential expression of any true devotion. How can you claim to be devoted to something if you fail to give it your attention? Where you spend your attention is where you spend your life. No student in honest pursuit of mastery thinks she can achieve it without giving it her full attention. And when she does give it her full attention, we exclaim, “See how she loves it!” Why? Because the practical impact of giving attention to anything is love. It is this love—the love born of true attentiveness—that holds the power to transform everything, including yourself.
How then do you learn this foundational skill of paying attention? I believe it's through the daily application of these three core practices:
1. Consecration: The intentional “setting apart” of your attention to God. This is a daily commitment, best expressed through ritual. A prayerful declaration of your devotion, accompanied by an embodied act, such as kneeling, making the sign of the cross across your body, or anointing your head with oil. Here's a simple example:
"I consecrate my attention to your presence today, God. I consecrate my ears to hear you , my eyes to see you, and my mind and heart to follow your lead."
2. Sanctification: The practical working out of that consecration through the choices you make moment to moment throughout the day. As opportunities, requests, and other external pressures come at you, ask yourself, “Will doing this strengthen my connection to Christ and my true self, or weaken it?” This regular practice of discernment moment to moment amounts to the practical application of Paul’s admonition to Timothy:
“In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” — 2 Timothy 2:20-21
3. Faithfulness: The resolution to remain on the path no matter what—whether God speaks to you or not, whether you “get the victory” or not, whether you feel anything or not. And when you fall, faithfulness is the deep resolve to simply rise and get back on the path, without any great drama or self abuse. The true follower knows that developing love of this kind is arduous, slow work, and the changes we seek will not be seen for quite a long time. But they will come, as sure as the dawn leads to the full light of day.
“But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.” — Proverbs 4:18
In the end, becoming your true self and becoming a true follower of the Spirit of God (which is the spirit of Christ), amounts to the same thing. For our life—our real life—is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:1-3), and it's only by looking intently in the mirror of the face of Christ that we uncover and unleash who we really are in this life.
“But we all, with unveiled faces, looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” — 2 Corinthians 3:18
“The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become—because He made us. He invented us. He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be…It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.” ― C.S. Lewis