So many of our decisions are carried along by deep undercurrents in the soul that move us away from our true identity. Perhaps the strongest one is the fear of how other people might react to us, the terror that we’ll be left alone, cut off from the community we need, disapproved, rejected, unwanted. That fear arouses a sense of indignation that we mistake as moral and use to justify a demand for personal satisfaction. We then live with no higher concern than our own well-being and become who we were never meant to be, autonomous narcissists who measure what is good by how it impacts us in the moment. We become who we are not.
When we discover who we most truly are, created by a giving community of radically good persons and re-created by radical forgiveness that implants a non-self-focused nature in our inmost being, fear no longer controls us. Neither does the longing for satisfaction. We become God-obsessed and eventually God-like. God, not our neediness, fills our center, and the satisfaction we seek follows closely on the heels of sacrificing our demand for satisfaction on the altar of satisfying someone else, which is what we most want to do..</br></br>
It shouldn’t be this way, but it’s not an easy thing to discover who we really are. But then, nothing is quite the way it’s supposed to be. We’re disfigured, but the gospel refigures us, by a long, slow, sure process.
Think what the obstacles are. We’re naturally self-obsessed, not God-obsessed. We’re committed to foolish independence, aware of an unquenchable desire for satisfaction and determined to slake that thirst by any means available. We’re so busy looking out for our own well-being that looking out for someone else’s becomes an unreachable and condemning ideal.
From our earliest days, we intuitively know that we can’t become true lovers until someone first loves us, perfectly. We quickly discover no one does. Not parents, not mates, not friends.
Terror and aloneness and the demand for a substitute for love, something that provides a counterfeit of what only love can do for us, become the prime energy driving what we do. The only escape is receiving perfect love. And that means abandoning ourselves to God. He’s the only source of perfect love.
But our souls are like tightly sealed jars. Nothing can be poured into them until they’re broken. And then whatever is poured spills out on everything around us. If what we receive is God’s love, the supply is limitless. There’s plenty to fill the innermost center of our being and then to flow into others without emptying us.
Discovering our true selves requires that we discover God’s love. And that requires facing how many things our false self clings to as more valuable than God. If we learn to be quiet in the Spirit’s presence, we realize that’s what he’s doing. He’s robbing us of peace from every source other than God. He’s shutting us up to grace. And we fight it. So the process is slow and sometimes painful, for ourselves and for those around us.
Until brokenness reduces us to glad surrender, we remain willfully committed to using people to our advantage and protecting ourselves from those who don’t line up with our agenda. The result is a world full of false selves, people trying to make life work without radical dependence on God.
But life isn’t working, and it won’t until a counterculture of people who are discovering who they truly are show the way, people who know in their depths that God loves them, people who rest in Christ’s forgiveness so fully that they happily give up autonomy and relax in dependence, people who experience the Spirit as a river within, cleansing them from self-determination and transforming them into lovers of God who therefore love others.
We are already loved; we are already forgiven; we are already new creations, participants in the divine nature. Think what it would mean if followers of Jesus became who we already are, if we became our true selves and abandoned everything false.</br></br>
It shouldn’t be this way, but it’s not an easy thing to discover who we really are. Thanks to the gospel, however, it can be done. As a matter of fact, it’s already happening. Look inside. Look around. The Spirit is quietly at work changing us from fearful, demanding self-obsessives into trusting, humble people who are obsessed with God.
We hope this issue of Conversations shines light on the process.