Lent is many things, some personal, since each person’s Lenten observance is shaped by their interaction with God into a unique field for our Lord to work in, and some are public or at least shared, since a portion of the Church still observes it passage. This series of meditations is mostly about the personal observance, about tending to the work in the field of the Lord, ourselves.
I would be the first to admit, relating back to Paul’s concern about aspects of the inward journey, that personal observances can become destructive as easily as constructive. It is always potentially dangerous to gaze too long at your own navel (I am, after all, a child of the 60’s). It is not the building up of the self that should be our goal, but its tearing down. You cannot assert with Paul, as I said before, …it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…, while working on your self-esteem. It is paradox that C. S. Lewis noted, saying:
When a man is getting worse, he understands his own badness less and less. A moderately bad man knows he is not very good: a thoroughly bad man thinks he is all right.
So, if there is one fundamental place I disagree with the thrust of most of modern Christian approaches to self, whether in children or adults (which includes Dr. Dobson), it is in the area of self-esteem. Christ-esteem, now I can get behind that. It fits perfectly with Paul’s words from Galatians 2:20.
As to the modern, post-modern, or whatever modern person you are, gone is the willingness to use the words of men like David who said:
But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. Psalm 22:6
That kind of thinking is considered unhealthy. It is said that we are being disrespectful of God, who sacrificed so much to redeem us, establishing our eternal worth. What is often lost is that the only worth we have or posses in any way is that given to us by God himself, exercising his sovereign choice of redemption, while we were still filthy, dirty, rotten to core, sinners.
Others will argue that God would not denigrate us, his children, that way, but that is said forgetting what the Lord said through Isaiah.
Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I am the one who helps you, declares the LORD; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. Isaiah 41:14
God himself calls his people worms, yet they are worms he has chosen to redeem. The central tenant of AGAPE is that, rather than seeing worth in something and wanting to posses it for oneself (the best definition of EROS in my book), you see something worthless and you, by sacrificial love, give it the worth it never had. Is not Christ-esteem the only response we can make to that kind of sacrifice?
Moses was called by God, the meekest of all men (Deuteronomy 12:3). Being meek, in the biblical sense, is not weakness, but strength. It takes a strong person to be humble and self-effacing.
So in closing, I believe something personal we should all persue during Lent is to learn meekness and to turn our concern to Christ-esteem, and leave the baggage of self-esteem behind.
May God be gracious to you today, as he redeems us by his grace, working in our fragile, unfired clay vessels. Afterall, our ease of becoming broken is intended to remind us where all the esteem should lie–with him, not us. May we discover with Paul that when we are week, we are paradoxically strong.
Amen! Grace is God’s ‘unmerited favor’ as the Amplified Bible used to say. (Haven’t seen one of those for years…) The word I was thinking while reading your blog was “ascribed”. God ascribes worth to us in Christ Jesus. Alternatively, God “reckons” us as worthy in Christ Jesus. In neither case is it a worth that we earn or eventually achieve. It is the free gift of Grace.
Oswald Chambers has been a favorite for me in recent years as he always shoots straight in my opinion and shots go right to the heart of things. One issue he was fond of addressing was the danger of the focus on “self-realization” or “self-actualization”. As John the Baptist put it – ‘He must become greater, I must become lesser.’ What we need to focus on is “Christ-realization/actualization” in our lives.
Paul, I have an Amplified on my desk. I really like its reading of 1 Corinthians 13. I have read it at several weddings.
Right to heart is good. No use wasting our time beating around the proverbial bush… 😉