Wednesday, September 3, 2014
The prison of self-esteem. . .
We have taken over the social media as a prime purveyor of such self-esteem. We confuse our social media friends for the kind our parents and grandparents had -- the face to face kind of friendships and lasted a whole life and provided the objectivity so often missing from our daily lives. We tweet out our thoughts and opinions presuming the everyone else in the world is waiting with baited breath to find out how we are feeling, what we are doing, what we are thinking, or what we like or dislike at this moment. Perhaps the saddest example of this is when we let the world know we are going to bed -- as if somehow the population of the universe will be saddened by the end of our Facebook threads or musings of life in 140 characters.
Worse than this is that we have transformed worship into a bond slave of our pursuit of self-esteem. Delivering self-esteem has now become the goal of reading Scripture, hearing a sermon, singing a hymn or song (or listening to someone else sing), prayer, and everything else done on Sunday morning. If our unhappiness is our modern day version of hell then heaven is when we get to do what we want and when we have others (God) affirm those wants and desires as good, true, and noble.
The voice of conscience has been silenced from its divinely intended purpose of guilt and guidance so that it is left with but one goal -- to tell me I was right all along. In the end we have used this pursuit of self-esteem and our hijacking of the role of conscience so that we are even further insulated from God and from reality than ever before.
The truth that hurts is that we have no self-esteem. We are poor, miserable sinners. We have done the evil God forbids and have not done the good He desires and it has created a prison for us from which we cannot free ourselves. There is no good in us for God to affirm. Unless we are content to live under the mask of the lies we tell ourselves, there is only one path to freedom -- repentance. The Spirit of God is given to us to make such repentance possible and to coax us from the shadows and darkness of our lies into the arena where truth can redeem, restore, and renew us.
The self-esteem that matters is not what we think of ourselves but what God thinks of us. In the miracle of the wounds that heal, the holiness that atones for sin, and the death that gives life we discover the miracle of love that will not let us go. There is self-esteem. Not what we think of ourselves but what God thinks of us. He has considered us poor, miserable sinners, worth not silver or gold but the holy and precious body and blood of His incarnate Son. There we find redemption and hope. There and in no other.
We constantly must remind ourselves of this. Indeed, we do so by remembering our baptism. I am baptized. I am baptized. I am baptized. The constant repetition of this is part of that daily repentance that is the shape of the new life imparted to us in the living waters. We repeat what God has said and done and in those words we find what it means for Him to love us. This love builds within us the only self-esteem that matters. I am His. I was bought with a price. I am not my own and neither am I sin's victim and the devil's pawn. I have redemption from my past and the gift of a whole new future beyond imagination. This is what shapes who I am, how I see myself, and defines the outcome of my life.
When we transform worship from the domain of God, from His Word and Spirit, we may find momentary joy in being told that we are good, that our lives are fine, that our desires pure, and our future unlimited except by our own choice, but eventually these will ring hollow in our ears and we will search for more. Self-esteem, just like pleasure, is not an end but a pursuit, an addiction more than an ending place. God must break the cycle or we repeat the past forgetting that the outcome cannot change. So God enters with the solemn warning of the Law to stop the cycle of our deception and death. In His light, we stand naked and exposed. But the result of this is not what we fear. It is instead the surprise of grace. He does not condemn but redeems. He does not judge for His judgment has been meted out on Christ. He makes us new again and in our deference to His gracious interference in our lives we find liberty, genuine self-esteem, and most of all joy.