If you want an impartial assessment of yourself (and probably you don’t), spend some time under the innocent but brutal scrutiny of a three-year-old. Recently, while I was playing with my granddaughter, she offhandedly revealed that I have big ears, hair in my nose, a big belly and several other observations which I conveniently have forgotten. However, after a quick mirror check, I was disappointed to see that she was quite observant.
We easily distort reality because we have bruised psyches, lack personal insight, and allow ourselves at least a modicum of magical thinking! Neglect, rejection, bullying, abuse, and bad choices contribute to a negative sense of self-worth. Misperceptions such as an exaggerated fixation on a specific or imagined bodily defect may lead to significant psychological and/or social dysfunction such as anorexia. Narcissistic personalities overplay the importance of self, position, and appearance. And we all have idiosyncrasies and quirks which may be annoying or offensive to others.
In C. S. Lewis’s somewhat amusing but seriously probing book, The Screwtape Letters, a demon named Screwtape writes a series of letters to assist his nephew, Wormwood, who had been given the responsibility of derailing the faith of a new convert to Christianity. Wormwood’s goal was to confuse his “patient’s” mind so that his faith would be rendered superficial, hypocritical, ineffectual, and effectively denied. A bit of Screwtape’s advice was: “You must bring him to a condition in which he can practice self-examination for an hour without discovering any of those facts about himself which are perfectly clear to anyone who has lived in the same house with him or work in the same office”
We laugh! But the point is that we are spiritually prideful. We don’t believe that we are sinful and condemned. However, the reality is that Holy God knows that we are unholy people, and we know we need redemption. Faith begins with the raw honesty that we are all incapable of perfection, and so we need God to rescue us, which He lovingly does through Christ, who paid the penalty for our broken natures.
Self-examination is more painful work than denial and delusion, but we have help keeping our feet to the fire: “…the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:15-17)
Scripture keeps us honest. It exposes us, warts and all. But when we come to terms with our brokenness, we find healing, completeness, and love. Such was the journey and prayer of the Psalmist. “…Create in me a clean heart, O God; And renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51: 7-10)
Meet Chris Mace
Christopher Mace graduated from Bowdoin College and Tufts University School of Medicine. Served as a Navy Doctor in Vietnam and has practiced medicine in Downeast Maine since 1970. He is now an Elder at United Baptist Church in Ellsworth Maine. Chris is the author of two books, Listening to God and Dancing with God. You can read more from Chris here: http://sweetwordsfrommaine.music.blog/. He is married and has four children and three grand children.