Study Guide: Mixtape: Ephesians 3:14-21

Sunday August 23, 2015 | Sandra Unger

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

Sandra discusses some of the difficulties and obstacles to getting our life from the fullness of Christ.

Extended Summary:

Recently Sandra went through a series of ups and downs in her life that we can all relate with, such as getting ill, feeling old, and family stresses. But in between these downs she experienced a number of “ups” which we can also relate with – getting a compliment about her youthful appearance, social media affirmations, etc.

What these ups and downs showed her is that she was falling into the same trap we all get tempted by: getting her identity from the world and events around her – instead of in Christ. We look into many mirrors, such as how young we look, people liking us, losing weight, etc. There are mirrors like this all around us, and it’s almost irresistible to look into them.

In Ephesians 3:14-21, Paul prays that the believers may be “rooted and established in love” and “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” He says that this is all possible and accessible to all of us through the Holy Spirit which resides in our “inner being.”

The question, then, is why do we all find it so difficult to remember this? Why do we all get sucked into looking to external measures for our sense of worth and “okayness?”

The answer is in one of the mirrors that we look into: it’s the mirror of shame. Shame is distinct from guilt, in that guilt is about something we have done, but shame is about who we are. Shame the force that drives us to compulsively look into external mirrors for validation. It is powerful and exhausting, and detrimental to all of the growth we are trying to do. And more importantly, it reduces our ability to respond to the needs of those around us, because we are so busy and distracted by thinking about ourselves. So we try our best to hide it from others, never talking about it, and it deepens our isolation from others.

The antidote to this trap is to be rooted in Christ, as Paul wishes for us in Ephesians. A good way to think of this is like a very tall pine tree: it’s flexible and yielding to the forces around it, so that it does not snap when the wind blows. But it is rooted firmly in the ground, so it never falls from these external forces. This is how we should try to be. Allow ourselves to be influenced by the world; it’s appropriate to do so. But while we flex, be rooted solidly in the love of Christ, so that we always stay upright and grounded in God’s love.

It is a lifelong practice to change these thought patterns. But some tips for accomplishing this:

1) If you find that you can’t put down mirror of shame, then you need to get help in letting it go. It’s isolating you from God and preventing you from further growth.

2) Think about your rootedness and flexibility. Which one is stronger in you? Which can you develop more?

3) Think about what mirrors you are looking into for identity. There are voices that go along with each. If the words of that voice are judgmental then it’s likely a “shame” mirror. Choose another mirror, or better yet, no mirror at all, and look to God instead.

4) Most importantly, walk with others who are asking same questions. This helps both of you to reduce the isolation and to reinforce better habits and thoughts.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Think about your rootedness and flexibility. Which one is stronger in you?
  2. Think about what mirrors you look to. Now think of the voices you hear with each. Are they superficial, or deep? Graceful and compassionate, or judgmental? This will help you to identify which mirror you’re looking into.
  3. What triggers feelings of shame for you? Discuss it with someone and let the light of God’s and compassion love into it.