“When I’m completely absorbed in self I ignore God, I end up thinking more about self than God. I ignore who God is and what he is doing.”
If you missed Part 1 of this series, you can read the full post here. Or... here's a quick catch up.
Researchers who study the mind and our human experience tell us that any change, any transition – whether perceived as good or bad, positive or negative – any change brings some level of stress.
But the change is real. And change has to be navigated. And it is stressful.
In the stress I can become completely self-absorbed. And in doing so, I get buried by the self-focus of shame: “I’m not good enough or strong enough to navigate this…”
Or I become puffed up with the self-focus of pride: “I’ve got this. I’m self-sufficient.”
Either way this change, this circumstance becomes all my focus. We just want to change the circumstance that's changed.
Yesterday, I noted that maybe, just maybe there's more God wants to help us navigate. Perhaps these seasons of transition become an opportunity to ask God to help us look under our own hood.
I'm convinced that what we don't want to look at when the stress of change is on us is who we are at our very core. Who are we really?
John Ortberg observes*, that we have 3 faces, 3 selves. All of us do.
We have a public, private and real self.
First, I have this public self… and in this transition I work hard at maintaining a public face, a public image. I smile. Everything is fine. I’m strong. I’m resilient. There are no problems. Change? What change? It’s fine.
I keep a public face on.
And second, I have a private face – and so do you – a private self. And mostly what I think about that private self is that I don’t like the private self, the private me. I don’t like the private me that no one sees. I don’t like the private self that I wear a mask to hide. I don’t want anyone to know what’s boiling, what’s lurking below the surface. I don’t anyone to know that there are days that things feel out of control. I don’t want anyone to know that there are nights I’ve cried myself to sleep. I don’t want anyone to know that at times I’ve faced decisions and I’ve not known how to make the decision because I felt ill equipped and unprepared and too stressed to make one more decision.
I don’t want anyone to see what lies at my core. But when I’m really honest and when the façade is peeled back and when the stress reveals my core, I find that too often I still don’t listen to my wife the way I want to listen to my wife. That in my stress and the change and the transition I too easily get absorbed in me.
I find inside my core that I still lack the discipline I want to live with. That when I’m stressed my private self gives way to impulse way too quickly.
I still know the slippery slope of depression. I hear the voices of shame that call me wretched. That I am bad. I’ll never be enough. I’ll always be inadequate. I’m just not good enough. I can’t live up to it. Any of it. The law. The expectations of others. My own ideals. I can’t push through this change.
The final self, our third self strangely enough encompasses both of the other selves, both of my other faces: my public and my private. And I find that that is the real me. The real me is this struggling – I want to, I will be; I can’t, I won’t … it is the real me, my real self.
And it is the real me that needs to hear the voice of my Creator say “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2
He wants to redeem the change, the transition you’re in… How he’ll see to it that this isn’t wasted.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8.28
And in all the transition, in all the change, in all the trial and all the testing, in all the change – God wants to use all of it for my good, for his glory.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:35 & 37
What if we trusted God's process in us? What if we accepted his unconditional love for the "real me?" What if we allowed God to do the work he wants to do in us...in the middle of the stress of change?
Tomorrow: Part 3. What can we do to cooperate with what God wants to do?
*Read John’s complete article on our three selves here.