August 22, 2012

"me" as a four-letter word

A good Christian book should give you a nice, solid gut-punch. If it doesn't, go find something else to read.

I just read The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness by Tim Keller (Dude, that's 99 cents on Amazon for the Kindle edition.) It's a short book - only 30-40 minutes to read it, but well worth it if you've got an e-reader. (Go buy it, go now.)

Keller argues, in a more eloquent and exhaustive way than can be blogged, that we shouldn't think too highly or lowly of ourselves, but rather we ought to just... not think of ourselves. Self-forgetfulness and all that. Humility, it's said, isn't thinking less of ourselves, it's thinking of ourselves less. Dwelling on self-esteem is fruitless. There's no need to compare yourself to others. There's no sense in considering how you're going to prove yourself.

For whatever reason, "self" has become a big, horrible word for me lately. I was convicted this summer as I processed our activities and reflected on them that there was way way waaaay too much me in there.

How did I do?
Was I ready for this?
What does this say about me?
How does this reflect me?
...What's next for me?

That last one, especially.

Do we all do this, or is it just me?

(See, there I go thinking about myself again.)

It's a natural tendency to view the thing that you're responsible for as yours. You're running the show. You're (sort of) controlling things. If you're not there, it might not happen. Consequently, you slap your forehead when you forget and pat yourself on the back when you succeed.

And then... It's kind of horrifying to stop yourself and realize that you're thinking about the ministry you're in as yours, and that you're aligning its impact and efficiency with your own, and gauging its success primarily on your own perceptions and feelings. The pressure and back-patting are healthy and relevant to some degree, but the problem comes when its the first thing you go to when you plan, respond, and reflect.

I am guilty of thinking of myself first, and it goes deeper than this ministry. It digs deep into my entire spiritual life.

Deep down, I realize that I am obsessed with my spiritual sufficiency and my spiritual progress, and that I view the world as my story starring me.

Man, all I think about is me sometimes.

"Am I growing closer to God?"

I no longer view that as an innocent, relevant, or even positive question. To approach it grammatically, I am supposed to be the object, not the subject. No matter how badly I want to build myself and prove myself, I am little more than a forgiven recipient of the love of Christ. I have no ground to stand on. There is nothing I can do, no progress that I can make, that can change the way God loves me. Even at my worst - especially at my worst - he would still send Jesus to die for me.

As such, if I have to accept that as true for myself, I have to accept it as true for everyone.

So I've got nothing on you.

And there's no sense in framing everything around myself. And there's no one in the world I've got any right to compare myself to or look down on, or despise, or withhold any of the entire breadth of the love that Christ has shown me. So I better get busy simply imitating the love of Christ, and get my eyes off myself.

I believe that this is a long-standing work-in-progress in me, to let go of myself. This will take some time, I know, and Keller's book was a well-timed read. I'm beginning to see this self-obsession manifested in a number of ways, not least of which is my writing.

I'm considering abandoning my mundane, daily journal, and significantly altering my approach to this blog. I don't want to write about me anymore. Maybe not for a while, maybe not ever.

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