Friday, June 17, 2016

Splendor Versus Self: Beholding Truth by Looking Out


"No one goes to the Grand Canyon to increase self-esteem. Why do we go? Because there is greater healing for the soul in beholding splendor then there is in beholding self." -John Piper

"He must become greater; I must become less." -John 3:30


I started writing this post a few days ago and was inspired to finish after a lovely conversation with some staff members of mine here in Colorado.

It happens every day here: I am reminded that there is so much more brilliance in this life when we behold splendor than when we behold self.

It seems so counter-intuitive (although less so when I meditate on God, versus when I try to live without Him), to forget thinking about ourselves. To stop dwelling on ourselves. To let go of ego.

We live in a world tell us to maintain something: to self-advance, self-seek, self-promote.

'Look what I'm doing'- versus look at the God who I'm doing it for. 'Look how talented I am'- versus look the gifts God has gracefully granted me. 'Look at my wisdom'- versus look at the way knowing His manifests in the words I say (and don't say), the love I give, and the life I lead.

There's a brilliance to life that comes to live within us when we draw closer to God, and we no longer need the approval of the world.
We stop giving any thought at all to how people see us (or if they do). We become, in no metaphorical way, free.

I've learned so much from my former pursuits only of self-knowledge, self-knowing, self-advancement, self-awareness, self-comfort in this world, before I followed Christ: they had blinded me to the very thing I had been seeking, without knowing it at the time, to make me whole.

I used to care if other people found me 'good enough.' Found me pretty enough. Found my art, voice, gifts, talents, skills, offerings good enough. (Which is probably why these things, in their purest, realest, most authentic form, never previously manifested.) 'Other people' as in those closest to me, and 'other people' as in total strangers who were probably paying no attention at all.

And I learned: we can't be authentic if we care at all about what impression we are making or about to make. When we humble ourselves before God first, it just no longer matters what man thinks about who we are.

And it also no longer matters about who we think we are.
It's ironic but true that the greatest gift we could give ourselves is self-forgetfulness. The cessation of constantly thinking about the self (our needs, wants, gratifications, desires, appearance), and the beginning of beholding something more beautiful entirely.

There is greater healing for the soul in beholding splendor then there is in beholding self.

I have to remember this every time I sit down to paint. To write. To converse. To speak love into the lives of other people. When I date (or don't date), when I talk to strangers, when I stand alone and the crowd goes the other way. In every instance, knowing who I am in the eyes of my Creator means knowing fundamentally who I am.

Every other identity- whether projected on to me by others, by my culture, by what is popular or readily-available; or whether arisen in my own thoughts about myself- is an illusion. 

Who I am is not contained in those things. It is much, much more firm than that.
I continue to learn here in Colorado- adrift from the secure, schedulized life I used to live back home- that challenging myself to forget myself and know my Lord is not an easy task. In a situation where no job, no amount of money, no college degree, no relationship, no home life, no set social circle, no 'external' thing can define who I am, there has been so much learning about what (about Who) can.

When we lay down and let go all that seems to define us, we learn a lot about comfort zones- and how they can sometimes be very confining to our truest identity. Maybe that's why some of us seek travel, seek the seeing of new things; seek experiences that challenge us and grow us. 

Seek not only the evolution of our lives, but the evolution of our lives toward something: a likeness to Christ, the character of God.

An anchor in a world that changes all the time, an awareness of the eternal relevancy that takes us toward not just 'creating who are are,' but coming into the person we were created to be by a set of hands higher than our self's altogether.

With every painting, every thought, every written word, every interaction with others, I learn that indeed there is such a thing. 
And indeed it is a Creator, the spring from which every moment flows and allows life- and all we create and do in it- to become present, and new.

xoxo

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