A friend of mine often uses the phrase ‘get over yourself.’ It’s a phrase I like and, yet I think it is more than just a gentle rebuke, or put down. It contains some real truths, some deep theological insights.
The ‘secular’ world (that of false philosophies, popularized by pseudo science) invites us to do the exact opposite. The key to success, happiness perhaps, is popularized through the myth that we can control our own destiny through the purposeful application of our own free will. This is undoubtedly true to an extent but an uncritical acceptance of this dogma is inhospitable to the greater truths within the Judea Christian traditions.
Let’s consider the title of one of the best selling ‘psychological’ monologues of recent years: ‘Reinventing your life: The breakthrough program to end negative behavior and feel great again.’ The title both indicates the assumptions behind the narrative, and the its ‘theology.’
Starting with the assumptions:
Life is an invention. Really! Christians hold to a doctrine of creation. Isn’t creation a softer, kinder, more flexible and yes, creative word? Creation also implies a Creator. Invention, by contrast, inverts the relationship. If we conceive of ourselves as inventors does this leave sufficient scope for the Creator?
Reinvention implies that we are not in reality very good at invention. The prototype was faulty! The blue print was ill thought through,lacking in realism. On this basis why would the reinvention be any better? So what is the Christian prototype and blue print? The prototype is the image of God in which we are made, the blue print is Jesus Christ.
So if the blue print is Jesus what does this say about the ‘breakthrough program?’ I think it implies three things:
First, we are created, not invented beings.
Secondly, that something went badly wrong (the Eden experience) and that this experience led us to create false images; covering our private, most intimate, most distinctly human parts with leaves, thereby diminishing our humanity.
Thirdly, our route back to the image of God is one of redemption and restoration, made possible through life in Christ, and not reinvention.
Sadly, the Church, because of the evangelical success of the pseudo-science movement frequently adopts ‘false philosophies.’ In doing so it diminishes the doctrine of creation, leaves no room for grace and trivializes pain and, the notion of pilgrimage.
Our faith is in Jesus not in the ‘invented world.’ In Thomas Merton’s terms we are invited to find our true selves, as opposed to our false or empirical selves. The world believes we thrive when we strive. Christianity is kinder it suggests that we thrive when we cease to strive, when we open ourselves to His grace, when we are still and know that He is God (Psalm 46), when we stop trying to control the world around us and when, we stop measuring our ‘relative value’ in relation to other people.
The really good news is this:
Your value is not relative. It is absolute and infinite. You are not a human invention. You are a Divine Creation. And through the redemptive power of grace you can really thrive.
Stop striving and start thriving. Go on, ‘get over your false self.’