by John Mark Comer
Begin with prayer
Gather together as a Community in a comfortable setting (around a table, on the couch, the floor of a living room, etc.). Have somebody lead a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your time together.
Debrief the teaching in triads (10 minutes)
If you are in a Community of seven or more, divide into triads (small groups of 3ish people each, ideally same gender) and debrief the last week with the following questions:
How was your last week? Any highs or lows?
How do you feel about this new practice?
Transition back to one large group (5 minutes)
Ask a few questions about the last week’s teaching:
Did you listen to the teaching? What did you think?
How do you feel about going on this journey of self-discovery?
Read this overview
One of the key tasks of our apprenticeship to Jesus is discovering our identity and calling. Over a millennia and a half ago, St. Augustine famously prayed, “Grant, Lord, that I may know myself that I may know thee.” Self-knowledge, God-knowledge, and others-knowledge are all tied together.
Yet so many followers of Jesus never discover the man or woman they were created to be. They spend years, and waste copious amounts of energy, living into a parody of their real, true self. Trying so hard to be who they think they should be, or who their family or friends or culture thinks they should be, or who they wish they could be. In the end, they end up failing at being somebody they’re not, rather than succeeding at being who they are.
But discovering your identity and calling is a process, not an event. And for most of us, it’s a lifelong process. Some of us are just getting started; others are miles down the road, but no matter your age, it’s never too late to start. The goal for Part 1 of this Practice is simply to plot ourselves on the timeline of that journey.
Open to the Bible together (10 minutes)
Have somebody read John 1v19-28
Work through these discussion questions:
Notice that John the Baptizer has three negative answers (“I’m not.”) to his one positive answer (“I am…”). In what ways does knowing who we’re not shape our identity and calling as much or even more than knowing who we are?
Do you ever feel the weight of others’ expectations on you to be somebody you’re not?
Do you ever feel the weight of your own desire to be somebody you’re not? (“I wish I was more laid back, more organized, more extroverted, etc.”)
On a scale of zero to ten - zero being emotionally oppressed by your desire or the desire of other people to be somebody you’re not and ten being emotionally free to be the best version of yourself - what number would you give yourself?
Do this Practice as a Community right now: (30-45 minutes)
Exercise 1: Plot your stage
Take a look at this seven-stage process of discovering your identity and calling. (Note: this is just a framework, not the law of gravity or a Scripture you’ve never read.)
Take a moment to plot yourself on the timeline.
Go around the room and have each person answer the following three questions:
What stage are you in?
What’s the greatest joy in your stage?
What’s the greatest obstacle you’re trying to move past?
Have a “scribe” write down each person’s greatest obstacle and email or text it to the whole group.
Commit to praying for each other to get unstuck from your obstacles over the next few months of this practice.
If you have time, here’s another exercise… (You can also do this by yourselves if you prefer)
Exercise 2: Bowen’s Scale of Differentiation
The following is Pete Szazzero’s adaptation of Murray Bowen’s “scale of differentiation.”
Bowen is the founder of modern family systems and he defined differentiation as your capacity to define your own life’s goals and values apart from the pressures of those around them.
People with a high level of differentiation can live in line with their identity and calling. They are free from the tyranny of the approval or disapproval of other people. They can be in a close relationship with people even when they have a very different vision and value set.
Take a few minutes to read through Bowen’s scale:
Can’t distinguish between fact and feeling
Emotionally needy and highly reactive to others
Much of life energy spent in winning the approval of others
Little energy for goal-directed activities
Can’t say, “I think. . . I believe. . .”
Little emotional separation from their families
Dependent marital relationships
Do very poorly in transitions, crises, and life adjustments
Unable to see where they end and other begin
Some ability to distinguish between fact and feeling
Most of self is a “false self” and reflected from others
When anxiety is low, they function relatively well
Quick to imitate others and change themselves to gain acceptance from others
Often talk one set of principles/beliefs, yet do another
Self-esteem soars with compliments or is crushed by criticism
Become anxious (i.e., highly reactive and “freaking out”) when a relationship system falls apart or becomes unbalanced
Often make poor decisions due to their inability to think clearly under stress
Seek power, honor, knowledge, and love from others to clothe their false selves
Aware of the thinking and feeling functions that work as a team
Reasonable level of “true self”
Can follow life goals that are determined from within
Can state beliefs calmly without putting others down
Marriage is a functioning partnership where intimacy can be enjoyed without losing the self
Can allow children to progress through developmental phases into adult automomy
Function well—alone or with others
Able to cope with crises without falling apart
Stay in relational connection with others without insisting they see the world the same
70–100 (Few people function at this level)
Is principle oriented and goal directed—secure in who they are, unaffected by criticism or praise
Is able to leave family of origin and become an inner-directed, separate adult, sure of their beliefs but not dogmatic or closed in their thinking
Can hear and evaluate beliefs of others, discarding old beliefs in favor of new ones
Can listen without acting and communicate without antagonizing others
Can respect others without having to change them
Aware of dependence on others and responsibility for others
Free to enjoy life and play
Able to maintin a non-anxious presence in the midst of stress and pressure
Able to take responsibility for their own destiny and life
Now, for this next part, remember, do this with compassion! For yourself and the people around you. The goal is to grow into “life to the full”; not to feel guilty.
First, take a few minutes of quiet and…
Identify which category fits your current emotional state the best.
Highlight key areas where you see potential for growth in your journey.
Then take a few minutes to share…
Go around the room, share the category you resonate the most with, and some key areas where you see potential for growth.
After each person shares, as a group, spend a minute or two “blessing” that person with words of love and affirmation.
Note for later: If you have a spouse, close friend, or community member that you feel really safe with, ask them to give you a category and to tell you why.
Close in prayer (10 minutes)
This is a tender moment. Spend a few minutes praying over each other.
As you go, commit to confidentiality. Community is a safe place.
Have a great week! Enjoy the journey…