Life itself is a series of problems that often act as obstacles to our search for significance… Our fulfillment in this life depends not on our skills to avoid life’s problems, but on our ability to apply God’s specific solutions to those problems.
Robert S. McGee in The Search for Significance
There is a complicated confusion for Christians in the area of self-image. I have even been chastised for “thinking of myself.” Not for thinking of myself more than others, but simply thinking of myself at all.
And that almost makes me angry. As if in thinking of myself (with anything other than contempt at my sin) I’m somehow being disloyal.
In his book Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton pointed out that it is only when the unlovely is loved that it improves. That the disgusting inspires disgust is no surprise, but disgust leads to destroying, not enhancing. (Think snakes, spiders and rats, as opposed to specialized breeds of dogs or rabbits.)
We must accept that we have value if we are to proclaim that all human life has value.
If we are to champion the unborn, and the poor and infirm, we must also recognize there is something beautiful even in this soddy old skin we happen to be confined to.
Jesus Christ gave His life as a ransom for or lives. The price is too high for us to even calculate. Our desire to be loved and accepted is a symptom of a deeper need– the need that frequently governs our behavior and is the primary source of our emotional pain. Often unrecognized, this is our need for self-worth. God knows we need to know how valuable our lives are, and he spends much of his Word telling us so.
Robert S. McGee in The Search for Significance
I think there are very few passions or needs within us (I question if there are any) that don’t originate form the core of needs and desires that God himself planted in us.
It was C.S. Lewis who wrote, God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.
In his book The Search for Significance Robert McGee creates a mind-spinning connection between four big churchy words, and how they meet four deep areas of hurt in our wounded self-worth.
I’ve read many many Christian books, so new gets my attention. McGee asked a new question that totally rocked my mind and still has me reeling: If God has one perception and you another, whose is correct?
Well, we all know the Sunday School answer: God’s!
Why then do we preface such discussions of value or even forgiveness with the words, “In God’s eyes, I’m-“ as if we’re qualifying what we’re about to say. As if he’s a dear old man who doesn’t really know what’s going on, but we’ll humor/acknowledge his version out of respect for his position as, you know, GOD.
We’ve lived backwards.
I love to quote 2 Peter 1:3 – His [Jesus’s] divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness (emphasis mine). The following quotes are from McGee’s book, and showed me for the first time the tremendous and usable gift of words I’d heard all my life.
1. To antidote the performance trap – “I must meet certain standards to feel good about myself.”
- The fear of failure
- The drive to succeed
- Manipulation of others to achieve success
- Withdrawal from healthy risks (which is the other side of Fear of Failure)
- “I must meet certain standards to feel good about myself.”
God has provided to the Believer justification.
“Justification means that God has not only forgiven me of my sins but also has granted me the righteousness of Christ. Because of justification I bear Christ’s righteousness, and I am therefore fully pleasing to the Father.”
The way I explained this to my children was to pull on a pair of red gloves, and show how God does not see our dirty hands when we have “put on Christ.”
Now I must pause here a moment and confess that the biggest pain of going through these previsions was becoming aware of my own gracelessness.
That I am afraid of rejection-for-failure was a flag that I was ready to reject others when I saw their failures.
So not only is understanding justification an invitation to be free ourselves, it’s a chance to apply God’s standard to others. And by that I mean fellow believers who are equally under the blood of Christ, equally accepted because of the work of Christ.
(And to those of you who don’t know what that means, I apologize, I know it sounds gross: ask me later and I’ll explain.)
This growing awareness holds true for each of the four areas, and God has been growing my understanding of grace in the months I’ve been thinking on these things.
2. Against approval addiction – “I must be approved by certain others to feel good about myself.”
- The Fear of rejection
- Attempts to please others at any cost
- High sensitivity to criticism
- Withdrawal from others in order to avoid disapproval
God holds up reconciliation.
“Reconciliation means that although I was at one time hostile toward God and alienated from him, I am now forgiven and have been brought into and intimate relationship with him. Consequently I am totally accepted by God.”
This presupposes the reader has accepted Jesus’s sacrifice. And if you haven’t yet done so, this offer of reconciliation is still valid!
It only requires your participation.
3. To neutralize blame- “Those who fail (including myself) are unworthy of love and deserve to be punished.”
- The fear of punishment
- Punishing others
- Blaming others for personal failure
- Withdrawal from God and others
God offers propitiation.
“Propitiation means that by his death on the cross Christ satisfied God’s wrath [took the punishment on himself]; therefore I am deeply loved by God.”
4. To end shame – “I am what I am. I cannot change. I am hopeless.”
- Feelings of shame
- Loss of creativity
- Withdrawal from others (Here it is again. Notice how often this comes up?)
God provided regeneration.
“Regeneration means that I am a new creation in Christ.”
“In the Scriptures, God supplies the essentials for discovering our true significance and worth. The first two chapters recount man’s creation, revealing Man’s intended purpose (to honor God) and man’s value (that he is a special creation of God.)
An accurate, biblical self-concept contains both strength and humility, both sorrow over sin and joy about forgiveness, and deep sense of our need for God’s grace and a deep sense of the reality of God’s Grace.”
Neil T. Anderson wrote “No person can consistently live in a manner that is inconsistent with how he perceives himself.”
If we are to pursue joyful living, we have to believe we are worth it. That it’s even possible.
Some do not pursue joy because they are- consciously or unconsciously- attempting to earn significance, or punishing themselves. Maybe in a karmic way even trying to punish themselves into Glory (heaven).
This is not God’s desire for the children he loves. He has finished the work.