Friday, April 20, 2012

Identity More Important than Efficacy

While teaching at one high school, I realized it was really up to me. I could have whatever I wanted. If I wanted to go on a field trip, I did it. If I wanted to have an extra set of books and markers, I got them. If I needed an audience with the executive director or the principal, I got that, too.

Yet all of this freedom was very damaging, very disintegrating, and very disappointing. If I can have anything that I want, if life is all about getting what I want, then what is life really all about? I was so empty in those days as a result. I was getting whatever I wanted, but I was also living in my head. I was constantly looking over my shoulder, so to speak, trying to make sure against all odds that I never did anything wrong. So, I was stuck. I wanted to make sure that I never did anything wrong, but at the same time, I was allowed to do whatever I wanted . This arrangement just wars against a man. He can have no peace if he cannot rest in something stable, certain, and eternal.

My identity in Christ, I did not know. I thought of God as some ephemeral force still, as someone who loved to hide himself from me, who was easy or difficult to find, depending on  my feelings.
If I felt good, then I felt that God was with me. If I felt bad, I thought  that God was a thousand miles away. If I was doing well, then I thought that I was OK. If someone held me accountable for something that I had done, or if someone crossed me or frustrated me in some way, I succumbed to a great deal of depression and anger. I was still living in my feelings, still living very much in my head.
This kind of seesaw life was driving me into frustration and despair. Everything depended on me, so I thought. Whether things went well or went badly. My value, my worth, my life were all tied up in what I did, what I accomplished, what I thought. That is not living. I cannot live a life in which I am trying to build a plane while I fly it. We cannot build and define our lives, either. Someone else has to make us who we are at our core. Contrary to the widespread myths of American individualism, a self-made man is an unmade man – we did not create ourselves, and we cannot be defined by our own perception of the world.
The solipsism of our reactions and impressions to a diverse world simply cannot create a soft landing for us.

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