Each person needs to write their name on a piece of paper. This is passed around the group and each person writes one word to describe that person. When you receive the paper back, consider if they have captured your essence.
Time to get philosophical!
Heard the phrase ‘I have my ups and downs’? Whether we like it or not, our reactions are just different depending on the way we feel each day. Some say it depends on which side of the bed they got out of or even which way the wind is blowing. If someone met you just once, would they think that whatever you were like that day was the real you? On good days that might be useful but on bad ones? Some people seem bubbly and outgoing when you first meet them but on subsequent meetings they may appear quiet and thoughtful… or the other way round. It is a good job for most relationships that people meet us several times before they endorse or revise their first impressions. What is the real you and who knows the real you? It can be really hard to maintain the real you when circumstances change around you. It can be so difficult to maintain a true representation of the essence of who we really are when we just do not feel like it. There may be a contrast between the essence of who we are (that intrinsic nature which determines our character) and our self-image (who we see ourselves as). To be really healthy we need to see a close link between the two, honestly seeing our areas of development and just as honestly seeing our worth.
Another word for ‘essence’ is ‘soul’. Do people really get a glimpse of our soul? The Psalmist struggled with this idea of the soul being the essence of himself and yet also the essence of his relationship with God. Here are just three of the Psalmist’s expressions regarding his soul; can you relate to them?
Read Psalm 119:28
How often do people see this side of our essential selves, the weary, sorrowful side? Yet we know that is not truly ‘us’. His strength within can help us to display our true selves, people who are strengthened in the Lord’s strength, even in the darkest day. May we know that even on the ‘get out of bed on the wrong side’ days his strength can be a central part of our innermost being.
Read Psalm 62:5
How often do we feel in need of rest for the soul? The very essence of ourselves comes to those dry, arid places and needs refreshment. It is found, the Psalmist suggests, through hope. Do we reflect this side of ourselves or even strive to develop it? Hope is something that we can practice; reminding ourselves daily of all the Lord has done and promised to do. The essence of ourselves needs to reflect the eternal hope we have in Christ.
Read Psalm 103:1
Thinking back to the one word descriptions of the essence of ourselves, would anyone see us as people of praise? We sing ‘Count your blessings, name them one by one’ but is it an essential part of who we are? Recently solid empirical research has shown the psychological benefits of counting your blessings or as some have called it, keeping a gratitude diary. (Reflecting each day on 3 good things we have experienced) From the warmth of a safe bed to the laughter of school children as they pass, from the love of a pet to the welcome cup of tea, we can praise the Lord in our innermost beings for the good things of life. We then will be people of praise.
Be grateful about yourself.
Bring a collection of images or pictures of prominent political leaders, prime ministers, presidents, politicians etc.