I love the Easter season! Partly this is because I am fond of chocolate, the autumnal weather, and hot-cross buns. But even more than that, I love Easter because I enjoy and benefit from the spiritual focus of this time.
The Easter season, and Holy Week in particular, is a wonderful time to reflect. Traditionally, the weeks from Ash Wednesday to Easter are known as Lent. “Lent is a time of preparation—a season of prayer, fasting and repentance.” Lent is also a time of reflection—with the hope that, after Easter Sunday, we would have experienced spiritual renewal. Many of us might engage in certain Lenten habits, or specific daily readings, which help prepare our hearts for Easter.
Engaging in focused times of prayer, fasting, reading, or reflection can be very helpful—for both counselors and counselees. Both counselors and counselees are often seeking immediate, concrete, practical life-change—and so we would do well to intentionally slow down and engage in a period of reflective preparation. However, there’s one very subtle danger involved in any time of reflection in which we are seeking renewal, and it’s this: renewal is not the result of introspection but theospection.
Introspection vs. Theospection
Theospection is a word I’ve made up to contrast with introspection. Introspection is self-focused over-reflection; endless self-analysis; limitless probing into inner recesses of your heart. Introspection is a subtle danger during any time of reflection—Lent included (and all counseling sessions included).
It is particularly subtle because, especially in the counseling endeavor, self-awareness is very important. Self-awareness enables us to answer vital questions, such as: what is driving my thoughts and behavior? What do I most value? When am I angry, sad, fearful, etc.? Growing in self-knowledge is helpful as we pursue renewal, but over-analysis is unhelpful (as it often promotes excessive self-focus). Simply put, introspection does not lead to personal spiritual renewal.
Rather, we experience renewal when we see God. In theospection, we gaze at God – and as a result are changed, renewed, refreshed. Let’s take a look at two passages where we see this play out.
Theospection: Seeing God’s Glory by Hearing God’s Word
In Exodus 33:18, we find Moses addressing God and making an audacious request: “Please show me your glory.” In the context, God has (again) demonstrated remarkable grace to sinful Israel, and Moses longed to see this remarkable God. Moses was seeking theospection.
So the Holy-and-Gracious God put some measures in place to protect Moses, putting Moses in the cleft of a rock and allowing him to see only His back (cf. Exodus 33:21-23). But what’s fascinating is what comes next: Moses sees God’s Glory by hearing God’s Word.
“The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.””
These words reveal the perfections of God’s character; these words reveal who He is, and who He always will be. When Moses heard these words, he saw God’s character. And what was the result of this theospection? Exodus 34:8, “Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.” Theospection led to personal renewal and invigorated worship for Moses – what other response is appropriate? Seeing God renewed Moses. Moses saw God’s glory by hearing God’s Word.
Theospection: Contemplation Leads to Transformation
Many years later, with some of these Exodus ideas in mind, the apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians: “We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). John Piper explains this verse memorably when he says that beholding is becoming. As we behold God, as we contemplate who He is—especially who He is in Jesus Christ—we become godlier. Seeing God, beholding His glory by His Spirit, through His Word, transforms us. Contemplating God, gazing at Him through His Word, transforms us. Renewal comes through theospection by the Spirit.
So to summarize: I see God, in my heart, by His Spirit, through His Word, and am transformed. As I worship God, by His Spirit, through dwelling on His truth, I am renewed. Transformation and renewal occur as I move from introspection to theospection.
Seeing God, by His Spirit, through His Word, Will Lead to Renewal
This Easter, I hope you experience spiritual renewal. Whether you are a counselor, a counselee, or just reading this blog for the first time, my prayer for all who read this is that you would be encouraged to pursue theospection. My hope is that you will experience renewal as you worship Him. Wonderfully, we can be confident in our expectation of such renewal. We will be transformed, by God’s Spirit, as we see God through His Word. Theospection leads to renewal. May you experience that this Easter as you gaze at God through His Word.
Join the Conversation
How could “theospection”—gazing at God through His Word—impact you this Easter season?