Inward or Upward?

“The desire for man to feel right in the world. This is the goal that so many are working toward, and why so many are discarding the relationships and careers and obligations that they see as holding them back, as they press on, trying to become the best version of themselves that they can be, looking for the job that is so fulfilling that it doesn’t feel like work anymore.

But this is not a gospel-based approach to life. Christians agree that man is not right in the world, and we agree that something must be done to get us right. But that is the starting point of the Christian faith and not the end destination. From our conversion, we work out our new life in Christ. We lay down our own interests and see others as more important. We work to give to others rather than consume others on our way to our new, completed selves. In Christianity, the self is always a tool and never a destination.

Rachel Jankovich

When I was in college, I had a little card I carried around in my wallet that quoted Shakespeare: “This above all, to thine own self be true.” I had it for years… it was like a little self-esteem shot every time I saw it. Coming out of high school where I tried to be someone I most certainly was not… I was ready to be my truest self. Whomever that was.

I’m forty-whatever years old and I’m finally coming to embrace the wonderful truth that my main purpose here is not to find my truest self. It is to serve Christ. This is a huge relief, and quite freeing if we can actually embrace it. I am not my destination… and that is a very freeing thing.

How powerful and strong are the messages, though, that what we do, what we accomplish (or don’t) is directly tied to our meaning and our value.

We need to matter, but we don’t know how to go about it. Sure we matter to our family and friends, but we desire more. It’s almost inexplicable. So we try to earn some solid identity though our hobbies, jobs, selfies. What we can’t earn, we can at least try to buy.

Somewhere along the line, things get sloppy, or downright ugly, and we discard what no longer pleases us. Maybe we replace relationships with newer, shinier ones. Maybe we adopt new hobbies, buy new things.

Is life no longer serving you the way you think it should?

Keep moving!

Responsibilities got you down?

Yes, I am kind of picking on the Royals. I’m too fascinated with this whole debacle. It’s ok, they’ll be ok. No, I don’t think anyone should ever stay in a stifling or unhealthy situation. But let’s face it, the self-promotion is strong here. They want to keep the benefits and protections of the name without the pesky duties. Sometimes I want that too. We all do.

But life… there are purposes and causes bigger than ourselves. Parents of littles can’t just stay in bed all morning because the kids’ sleep schedule isn’t working for them. Couples and friends don’t (or shouldn’t) throw in the towel at the first sign of disagreement.

We don’t easily see it this way, but selfishness is a terrible burden to carry. If our worldview is that of the great (but godless) philosophers, we will weighted down with it our whole lives. The more inward the focus, the less ourselves we become.

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:18

Made to reflect HIS image… never our own.

“We have the mind of Christ.”

1 Corinthians 2:16

Made to think like HIM! What a relief.

The kids have a slang word they use for someone who has an insatiable need for approval or attention: thirsty. It’s funny and embarrassing and sad all at once. But that’s what you are left with when you follow the path of self, an insatiable thirst for more. Reflecting your own image and thinking your own lowly thoughts. Yuck. We can do so much better than ourselves!

So the old line from Hamlet, “to thine own self be true” is really only helpful if we first find ourselves in Christ.

He alone makes us our best selves.

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