"Do you ever feel you've become the worst version of yourself?" Joe Fox types out to Kathleen Kelly. "That a Pandora's box of all the secret, hateful parts - your arrogance, your spite, your condescension - has sprung open? Someone upsets you and instead of smiling and moving on, you zing them? "Hello, it's Mr Nasty." I'm sure you have no idea what I'm talking about."Yes, I'm quoting a movie but it's all that's running through my head as I revisit moments where I'm less than proud of myself.
My first response is usually, "Next time, Andrea, do better than that." And then something far more haunting, far more real, sinks in and says, "You can't."
I, like most people in this world, like to put my best foot forward, even at the expense of transparency and honesty sometimes. I will deny, hide, stuff, cover, sugar coat, avoid and sidestep until the only perception you have of me is a happy, carefree, conquering, successful one.
Until the day it all comes crashing down. And the thin chassis around me shatters at the slightest pin prick, and suddenly, I am nothing that I wanted to be. I am the worst version of myself.
So what to do about this?
"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." (Psalm 51:10)Here's the thing. As much as I want you to think the best of me, it's not about what you think. It's about who I actually am. And who I am is a sinner still desperately in need of a God who changes us from the inside out.
Reality is that most days I'm prone to nitpick at myself until I have gnawed my soul to the bone. I am dropping my gaze from the cross to my own hands. I'm trying my best to patch up holes and bubblegum stop leaks on a sewage system that is teeming with nothing but sin, and stench, and everything ugly I hoped I never would be.
Doesn't that sound lovely?
So today, I don't want you to think highly of me. If I am graceful, it's because of Christ's miracle work in my heart. If I am patient, it's a fruit of the Spirit who is renewing the right spirit within me. If I am gentle, kind, loving, peaceful, it's because somehow, by His grace, my gaze looked away from the mess long enough for the Spirit to actually get to work. The cross became my obsession more than I am my own obsession.
And when I can't seem to hold it all together, and you can't seem to hold it all together, let's agree to stop grasping at bandaids and sugar spoons, and let's look up. The gift of the Gospel is not something that we created by fixing ourselves. Why is it that I think the continued gift of Grace is something that I have to perfect in myself as well?
Galatians 3:3 —"Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?Tullian Tchividjian talks about this "spiritualized navel-gazing" and I'm guilty of this form of Christianized narcissism. I'm still obsessed with myself, how I'm doing, how to fix it, how to make it better.
And quite honestly, it's exhausting and that's not why I believe the Gospel. I don't believe in Grace because it makes me a more holy version of a narcissist. I believe in the Gospel because it lifts my chin up completely away from myself to look at the cross, and says, "You can stop trying to make it all better now." And I lean in to the finished work of Christ, repent of my absolute self-obsession, and whisper gratitude that He is patient, constant, and faithful to complete the work that He began.