Living an illusion

The journey to know yourself is one that is important to take, but also can be difficult.  In order to know yourself, truly know yourself it requires you to look at all the parts of yourself including the ones that you would rather keep hidden.   Everyone of us has parts of ourselves which we like, and try to make prominent.  The qualities of ourselves that we see as strengths which we work on and hope people see.  But we also have parts that we do our best to minimize and keep hidden.  The parts of ourselves that we see as shortcomings or weaknesses.

If we were to have our way these parts of our nature would be kept in the dark and never seen again.  The problem is we cannot truly know ourselves without seeing them for what they are, a part of who we are.  If we only focus on the parts of ourselves that we like, or think are our strengths we will not live in truth, because part of ourselves remains hidden and in the dark.  And it is part of us that God created.  It probably needs some work, because these weaknesses can lead us into areas where we can be tempted to sin, but it still is part of who we are and needs to be recognized as such.

“If, for example, I only know my strong, competent self and am never able to embrace my weak or insecure self, I am forced to live a lie. I must pretend that I am strong and competent, not simply that I have strong and competent parts or that under certain circumstances I can be strong and competent. Similarly, if I refuse to face my deceitful self I live an illusion regarding my own integrity. Or if I am unwilling to acknowledge my prideful self, I live an illusion of false modesty.”The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery” by David G. Benner

The Holy Spirit’s job here on earth is lead us to truth. Jesus said “The Holy Spirit is coming. He will lead you into all truth.” John 16:13.  That truth is usually seen as the truth about Jesus.  Which is a very important role the Holy Spirit has.  But the truth He is leading us into is also the truth about ourselves.  And if we are unwilling to see those parts of ourselves then we will resist the Holy Spirits job in us because only when we see ourselves as He sees us can we truly live in truth.  I wrote in a earlier post how the parts of ourselves that we try to hide keep us from becoming who God wants us to become, and usually keep us trapped in behaviors that we are struggling to be free from.

Unless we are willing to honestly look at all of who we are and allow God to reach into those areas we are trying to avoid ​
we will never be able to break free of the illusion we have worked to create, and we can never truly know what it means to live in freedom.   God is already waiting in those areas we are working so hard to keep locked up, so He won’t be surprised at all by what we find when we decide to open them.  The pain of opening them might be difficult, but it is infinitely rewarding and freeing when we can face ourselves for who we are and know we are truly loved and completely accepted for who we are, and exactly as we are.

You’re such a Curmudgeon!

“You’re becoming such a curmudgeon!” one of mcurmudgeon-with-bow-tiey co-workers said to me a couple weeks ago.  I had to admit I didn’t know what he was talking about.  He grinned widely and said it means “a cranky old man.”  It’s a comment meant to be a joke but it has got me thinking.  Because the things we say we believe we don’t often live like we do.  Craig Groeschel wrote “The Christian Atheist”, a book which premise is that Christians today declare that God exists and is involved in their lives, and then live like He isn’t.

We live in a society which says that they are Christian.  For many it is because they go to church, at least at Christmas and Easter.  For others it is cultural, and while we are getting further and further away from a Christian culture many still see themselves as Christians.  And there are others who believe in the Christian message.  But it isn’t what we say we believe that matters.  In fact our lives declare more about what we believe than anything we may say.  And for many of us our lives are not declaring what we hope they may.  It is a fact I have been looking into in my own life.

It is not a bad thing to evaluate your walk with God from time to time.  If you don’t you will quickly become complacent and coast through life.  Paul wrote “Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it.” 2 Corinthians 13:5 MSG

Everyone of us needs to look at what our life is saying about our beliefs.  Are we following Jesus or are we saying we are Christian and living like He doesn’t exist?  Craig Groeschel wrote “Who do we believe in more? Ourselves or God? Our actions and decisions will reflect that.”  Our actions declare what we believe.  John Calvin wrote “the doer is he who from the heart embraces God’s word and testifies by his life that he really believes.”   Rick Warren said something similar when he said You only believe the part of the Bible you do.”

Paul said three times in scripture “Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.” Philippians 1:27 NLT, Colossians 1:10, Ephesians 4:1.  Our conduct says a lot about us and about what we believe, and the world around us is watching.  Are we declaring the majesty of Christ, or the selfish whims of our own hearts.  What is your life saying about what you believe?  Is it agreeing with the words you say?  It is a tough question to ask, but a very important one to answer.

Acceptance vs Approval

All of us have met people who rub us the wrong way.  And there are always things that people do that we disagree with, some of them very strongly.  Not everyone likes tattoos or piercings.  When I dyed my hair as a youth leader I got a great many negative comments from people who thought that it wasn’t the right behaviour.  Society has a great many different behaviours and attitudes that we disagree with.   As Christians this is more evident as we try to follow a standard for life that the world doesn’t believe in or in many cases agree with.

I have found that many people get rejected in life because we cannot agree with their choices.  We see the behaviour and stop and don’t go any further to the person underneath the behaviour.  Because we cannot approve of the decisions or behaviours we are critical of them and judge them harshly.  I have seen it so often and it is something I have wrestled with for many years.  I came to know the acceptance of Christ and found that it wasn’t conditional based on my behaviour.  And all through the gospels we see Jesus reaching into the lives of people who were in direct disobedience to what God wanted for them, and every person who met Jesus felt His acceptance of them.

If we see acceptance as approval we will never be able to build bridges to the people we come in contact with.  There will always be things we cannot approve of.  Approval means I am in agreement with.  So if you lifestyle is not something I can agree with then I must stand in disagreement and criticize and judge.  It seems to be the behaviour of many people in our world.

Acceptance however isn’t the same as approval.  People can be acceptable even when their choices go completely against what we hold as values and standards.  Acceptance looks at the person, not the behaviour.  Acceptance can be communicated even when approval cannot be given.  Acceptance says you are valuable and your value isn’t increased or decreased by your performance.   This is exactly what Jesus did.  Romans 5:8 “But think about this: while we were wasting our lives in sin, God revealed His powerful love to us in a tangible display—the Anointed One died for us.” (Voice)  Jesus didn’t wait for us to get everything right so He could die for us, He accepted us completely and paid our penalty, even though He couldn’t approve of our behavior. 

Acceptance seeks to listen, hear and understand a person simply because they are worth it.  Approval just looks for agreement with.  Our message can only properly go out as we work to separate these two.  Acceptance needs to be communicated and lived regardless of who people are and the choices they are making.  Acceptance is how love is communicated, and is one of the most vital needs in a persons life.  We don’t need to know people approve of us.  At times it is nice, but we can live without people’s agreement.  We cannot live without acceptance.  Something in our souls withers and dies when acceptance is withheld.

We need to receive and communicate acceptance in order for our lives to be healthy and whole.  It is up to us to decide whether we are going to learn to accept people for who they are and the intrinsic value they have, or if we will fight simply for approval and only spend time with people we can be in agreement with.